Treating cancer could soon become a reality if the “smart biogel” that is still in its creation stages goes full cycle. Lab tests already show that the gel performs considerably well against tumor cells. If the same effect could replicate in cancer patients, the biogel could create a path for treatment of multiple cancers.
Researchers behind this study say that the biogel is compatible with anti-cancer immune cells. This allows for direct injection of the gel into cancer tumor instead of the bloodstream.
Coauthor Réjean Lapointe and a team of researchers from the University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre (CRCHUM) in Canada, adds that the findings of their study will enhance current immunotherapies.
Immunotherapy works by using the immune system or part of it to fight cancer. One form of immunotherapy, known as adoptive cell therapy, uses anti-cancer immune cells to treat cancer. Adoptive therapy primarily seeks to bolster the presence of T lymphocytes or T cells in the body. While these cells can kill cancer cells, there are typically not enough to eliminate cancer. This is because the therapy does not always generate T cells to eradicate cancer completely.
On the other hand, the new biogel needs fewer T cells to work. Lapointe explains that with their biogel, the doctor will only need to inject the patient with a few dozens of T cells, opposed to millions that are currently required.
Also, the new technique allows the doctor to inject compounds that enlist the immune system to help fight cancer cells. According to the researchers, the gel is nontoxic and creates an ideal environment to allow growth and replication of encapsulated immune cells. The encapsulated cells act as a cellular reservoir for fighting cancer.
The gel was successfully tested in a couple of test tube models of cancer tumors, including kidney cancer and melanoma. Lapointe notes that the T lymphocytes in the gel work and can grow for 2 to 3 weeks before being released to kill cancerous cells.
The biogel is made by combining gelling agents and chitosane, a biodegradable material extracted from the shells of crustaceans. The gel is liquid at room temperature, making it easy to administer. Once inside the body, the gel becomes more cohesive and resistant. It mimics an elasticated piece of cloth.
Plans are underway to test the biogel in human beings, and if it is proven to be effective, researchers say it will be available after a couple of years.