PURDUE (US) — Micro devices implanted inside tumors to generate oxygen boost the cancer-killing power of radiation and chemotherapy.
The technology is designed to treat solid tumors that are hypoxic at the center, meaning the core contains low oxygen levels.
“This is not good because radiation therapy needs oxygen to be effective,” says Babak Ziaie, a Purdue University professor of electrical and computer engineering and biomedical engineering. “So the hypoxic areas are hard to kill. Pancreatic and cervical cancers are notoriously hypoxic. If you generate oxygen you can increase the effectiveness of radiation therapy and also chemotherapy.”
This diagram shows the design of the micro oxygen generators. (Credit: Birck Nanotechnology Center, Purdue University)
The new “implantable micro oxygen generator” is an electronic device that receives ultrasound signals and uses the energy to generate a small voltage to separate oxygen and hydrogen from water—a chemical operation called water electrolysis.
“We are putting these devices inside tumors and then exposing the tumors to ultrasound,” Ziaie says. “The ultrasound energy powers the device, generating oxygen.
Researchers have tested the devices in pancreatic tumors implanted in mice, showing they generated oxygen and shrunk tumors faster than tumors without the devices. The devices are slightly less than one centimeter long and are inserted into tumors with a hypodermic biopsy needle.
“Most of us have been touched by cancer in one way or another,” Ziaie says. “My father is a cancer survivor, and he went through many rounds of very painful chemotherapy. This is a new technology that has the potential to improve the effectiveness of such therapy.”
Findings are detailed in the journal Transactions on Biomedical Engineering.
Purdue researchers are working with Song-Chu (Arthur) Ko, an assistant professor of clinical radiation oncology at Indiana University. A patent application has been filed for the design.
Future work may focus on redesigning the device to make it more practical for manufacturing and clinical trials.
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