Scientists have developed a hydrogel patch that can adhere to tumours and may allow doctors to use diagnostic colonoscopy equipment to immediately deliver treatment for colon cancer without the need for open surgery.
The researchers were able to deliver three therapeutic strategies in their mouse model of colon cancer: gene therapy, chemotherapy or thermal ablation or a combination of all three.
The team used gold nanoparticles to deliver a gene therapy treatment that targets Kras, a known cancer gene, and used near-infrared radiation to release a chemotherapeutic drug and cause heat damage to the cancer cells.
The local, triple-combination therapy not only shrank tumours but also had a sustained effect overtime, preventing tumour recurrence and significantly extending survival of mice.
The researchers examined the effects of the therapy both with and without resection (surgical removal of the tumour), which is the current standard treatment for colon cancer in humans.
In human cases where resection is not possible, a neoadjuvant therapy, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy, is often used to shrink tumours before clinicians attempt to remove them.
Natalie Artzi, a principal investigator at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in the US, and colleagues anticipate that their hydrogel patch could someday be used to shrink tumours before resection or could eliminate the need for resection entirely.
They plan to test the material in larger preclinical models and dive more deeply into the genetic changes resulting from therapy to pinpoint which genes are most critical to target.
“By using local, combination treatment, we achieved complete tumour remission when the patch was applied to non-resected tumours and elimination of tumour recurrence when applied following tumour resection,” said Artzi.
“Next, we would like to use colonoscopy equipment to locally apply the patch to tumours in large preclinical models,” she said.
“Using minimally invasive techniques to apply the triple-therapy patch and evaluate its efficacy has the potential to improve clinical procedures and therapeutic outcomes,” she added.
The findings were published in the journal Nature Materials.