Researchers at Houston Methodist Research Institute have created a nanodevice that can be used to deliver immunotherapy to treat triple-negative breast cancer.
The tiny device is designed to be inserted directly into a tumor, delivering a localized, sustained-release dose of therapy and eliminating the need for patients to undergo IV treatments.
The scientists described their work in a paper published recently in the Journal of Controlled Release.
“With this research we are trying to establish a novel strategy to deliver immunotherapy straight into a tumor instead of delivering it to the whole body of a patient,” Alessandro Grattoni, chairman of the Institute’s dept. of nanomedicine, said in prepared remarks. “And we’re trying to understand whether delivering it this way would actually be more effective and have less side effects as compared to conventional immunotherapy, which today is given to the entire body of the patient.”
“Timing of the release may be extremely important,” Dr. E Brian Butler, chair of the dept. of radiation oncology at Houston Methodist, added. “These immunotherapy payloads Dr. Grattoni created come in a little metal device with nanochannels that release the medication at a constant rate in a controlled way.”
“Our implant releases the drug in a constant manner until the entire amount is completely gone from the reservoir,” Grattoni said. “Since it can deliver the immunotherapy by itself for weeks to potentially months, we would only need to place the device inside the tumor once and then the drug would be released autonomously for that long period of time.”
The researchers explained that they chose to apply their device to triple-negative breast cancer because there is no effective treatment option available for patients with this breast cancer subtype. In a mouse study, the Houston Methodist scientists showed that intratumoral delivery of immunotherapy using their device was just as effective as systemic delivery.
“The difference was that the systemic immunotherapy showed significant side effects, while our device delivered the same effective treatment without side effects. We were, in fact, able to completely eliminate side effects, which was very surprising to us,” Grattoni said.
The researchers plan to conduct their next animal study by combining the device with radiation therapy.
“Using Dr. Grattoni’s nanodevice in conjunction with our clinic, we hope to create a very robust immunological response, by putting the immunotherapy directly into the tumor, which is where all the information is,” Butler said. “This will allow us to possibly harness the full power of a person’s immune system to destroy the cancer, offering the opportunity to get the systemic response, while treating locally, without all the side effects.”