Nano-Gel Promises to Help Fight off Cancer after Surgery

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Developed by a UCLA research team, the spray gel is embedded with immune-boosting drugs and can inhibit the recurrence of tumors as well as control the spread of the mutated cells.

This sprayable gel shows promise against one of the greatest obstacles in curing cancer”, noted professor of bioengineering Zhen Gu. “One of the trademarks of cancers is that it spreads. In fact, around 90 percent of people with cancerous tumors end up dying because of tumor recurrence or metastasis. Being able to develop something that helps lower this risk for this to occur and has low toxicity is especially gratifying”.

Calcium carbonate nanoparticles are loaded with an antibody specifically targeted to block CD47, a protein that cancer cells release as a “don’t-eat-me” signal. The calcium gradually dissolves, slowly releasing the inhibitor and enabling the immune system to locate and destroy the cancer cells. It also boosts the activity of a type of macrophage that helps rid the body of foreign objects.

The substance is used in surgical wounds and promotes healing. “We also learned that the gel could activate T cells in the immune system to get them to work together as another line of attack against lingering cancer cells”, added Qian Chen, the study’s lead author.

Testing was done on mouse models that had advanced melanoma tumors surgically removed where the biodegradable spray gel managed to reduce the growth of tumors that remained after surgery and prevent the return of the disease.

Further research needs to be done before moving to human trials. Optimizing the particles and finding the best dosage is the priority right now. Nevertheless, this could become an important new tool to improve post-op recovery and limit the metastatic effect of tumors.