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Implanted Device May Offer Effective Mesothelioma Treatment

Mesothelioma is a rare and challenging form of cancer that has confounded researchers and physicians alike. Identified in only 3,000 patients in the United States each year, the cancer has an extremely long latency period and does not begin to show symptoms until it is firmly entrenched in the body. The tumor’s unique characteristics make it particularly difficult to treat surgically, as the cancer cells tend to blend in with healthy tissue. Most treatments involve the use of chemotherapy, which can attack healthy tissue as well as cancerous tissue, thus jeopardizing the patient’s health. But a new device created by scientists at the DeSimone Group of the University of North Carolina is offering hope for an innovative answer to this problem.

The device was originally created for the treatment of pancreatic cancer tumors, which are similarly difficult to tray. It provides a new drug delivery strategy that uses an electrical current that targets the tumor and drives chemotherapy drugs directly into cancerous cells. The initial studies have shown what the researchers call “unprecedented tumor shrinkage.” It has limited the drugs’ interactions with healthy cells, thus decreasing toxicity, while delivering higher doses of chemotherapy than have been traditionally used in the past.

According to Joseph DeSimone, a chemist and head of the DeSimone Group, “This new drug delivery strategy holds out hope for increasing the effectiveness of chemotherapy and reducing its side effects.” Not only does the device reduce the size of the tumor itself, it makes surgical intervention a greater possibility for more patients. The device is yet another pathway to a personalized treatment approach, as each patient’s therapy would be created specifically for them through the use of a 3-D printer. It is designed at the patient’s bedside, matching the individual tumor specifically for location and size.

According to an interview that was published in early February in Science Translational Medicine, at this point the device has only been used in the laboratory, but the technique has been shown to “strongly inhibit tumor growth, and doubled the survival time of the mice.” The DeSimone Group acknowledges that there will be some time before the device is ready to be used in humans, as clinical trials are not slated to begin until some time in 2016.

Terri Oppenheimer

Terri Oppenheimer is an experienced blog writer, editor, and proofreader. She graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in English. She specializes in providing content for websites and finds tremendous enjoyment in the things she learns while doing her research. Her specific areas of expertise include health, medical research, and law.

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