The pancreas is a pain in the ass to reach. It lives behind your stomach, deep within your abdomen, which makes it awesome at hiding from chemotherapy medicines if you get pancreatic cancer.
But researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Massachusetts General Hospital think they've found a solution: Take a direct approach.
The researchers developed a tiny, tunable implant that can pump chemo drugs directly into pancreatic cancers instead of having the drugs go through your entire system, which is a terrible time for the host.
According to a paper published in the journal Biomaterials, delivering the drugs to your cancer's doorstep was 12 times more effective than intravenous injection, the common treatment for pancreatic cancer. According to statistics from the American Cancer Society, intravenous injections aren't effective enough: Of the approximately 48,960 people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer annually, 40,560 of them die.
"It's clear there is huge potential for a device that can localize treatment at the disease site," Laura Indolfi, a postdoc in MIT's Institute for Medical Engineering and Science and the MGH Cancer Center, said in a statement. "You can implant our device to achieve a localized drug release to control tumor progression and potentially shrink [the tumor] to a size where a surgeon can remove it."
Having an implantable chemo-delivery system could have huge implications for how oncologists treat cancer. Not having to send mortar shells of chemotherapy medicines through the body could mean reducing the destructive side effects associated with common therapy, like monstrous bouts of fatigue, pain, vomiting and other debilitating effects on the nervous system.
This wouldn't just change how cancer treatment happens; it could vastly improve the pain those cancer patients experience.