A paper published in the January issue of the journal Nanomedicine could provide the foundation for a new ovarian cancer treatment option – one that would use an outside-the-body filtration device to remove a large portion of the free-floating cancer cells that often create secondary tumors.
"What we are developing is akin to hemofiltration or peritoneal dialysis in which the patient could come into a clinic and be hooked up to the device a couple of times a week," said Scarberry. "The treatment is not heavily invasive, so it could be repeated often."
The new treatment could be used in conjunction with existing chemotherapy and radiation. Reducing the number of free-floating cancer cells could allow a reduction in chemotherapy, which often has debilitating side effects, Scarberry said. The new treatment system could be used to capture spilled cancer cells immediately after surgery on a primary tumor.
The researchers hope to have a prototype circulation and filtration device ready for testing within three years. After that will come studies into the best treatment regimen, examining such issues as the number of magnetic nanoparticles to use, the number of treatments and treatment spacing. If those are successful, the company will work with the FDA to design human clinical trials.
The researchers also studying how their magnetic nanoparticles could be engineered to capture ovarian cancer stem cells, which are not affected by existing chemotherapy. Removing those cells could help eliminate a potent source of new cancer cells.
The research has been supported by the Georgia Research Alliance (GRA), the Ovarian Cancer Institute, the Robinson Family Foundation and the Deborah Nash Harris Endowment. A member of Georgia Tech’s ATDC startup accelerator program and a GRA VentureLab company, Sub-Micro has also raised private funding to support its prototype development.
Challenges ahead include ensuring that nanoparticles cannot bypass the filtration system to enter the body, and controlling the risk of infection caused by opening the peritoneal cavity.
Beyond cancer, the researchers believe their approach could be useful for treating other diseases in which a reduction in circulating cancer cells or virus particles could be useful. Using magnetic nanoparticles engineered to capture HIV could help reduce viral content in the bloodstream, for instance.
"A technology like this has many different possibilities," said Scarberry. "We are currently developing the technology to control the metastatic spread of ovarian cancer, but once we have a device that can efficiently and effectively isolate cancer cells from circulating fluids, including blood, we would have other opportunities."
Source: Georgia Institute of Technology Research News