With the help of sponges inserted in the bloodstream to absorb excess drugs, doctors are hoping to prevent the dangerous side effects of toxic chemotherapy agents or even deliver higher doses to knock back tumors, like liver cancer, that don’t respond to more benign treatments.
Doctors at UCSF worked with Foundry users to find identify a polymer that could be used as a “sponge” to remove drugs with toxic side effects from the blood stream. The users worked with scientist from the Foundry’s Biological facility to perfect a method of adhering the polymer to a 3-D printed cylinder that could be placed inside a vein.
The “drug sponge” is an absorbent polymer coating a cylinder that is 3D printed to fit precisely in a vein that carries the blood flowing out of the target organ – the liver in liver cancer, for example. There, it would sop up any drug not absorbed by the tumor, preventing it from reaching and potentially poisoning other organs.
In early tests in pigs, the polymer-coated drug absorber took up, on average, 64 percent of a liver cancer drug – the chemotherapy agent doxorubicin – injected upstream.
Most anticancer drugs are poisonous, so doctors walk a delicate line when administering chemotherapy. A dose must be sufficient to kill or stop the growth of cancer cells, but not high enough to irreparably damage the patient’s other organs. Even so, chemotherapy is typically accompanied by major side effects, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and suppression of the immune system, not to mention hair loss and ulcers.