A tiny new implant could have a big impact on metastatic breast cancer, researchers believe. The microscopic device captures metastatic cancer cells, keeping them from spreading. A test on mice shows that it's likely viable and is, as the researchers say, proof of concept.
It's already known that early detection of a tumor is associated with improved outcomes, but not necessarily known is whether this works with metastatic cancers as well. The study, published in Cancer Research aimed to both help prove that idea out and show a new technology that could offer a therapy using it.
Implanting the device before metastatic cancer had begun improved outcomes when it did happen.
In the study, mice with breast cancer on the verge of going metastatic were implanted with small "scaffold" devices designed to attract and hold metastatic cancer cells. These "traps" are made of microscopic poly-caprolactone (PCL), a material already approved by the Food and Drug Administration for under-skin use. The substance biodegrades within the body within two years.
The idea is to implant the device under the skin where blood-born metastatic cancer would be captured. Once the device is loaded with cancer cells, it is removed. The scaffold works by attracting the immune cells that often attract the cancer itself.
“Currently, early signs of metastasis can be difficult to detect. Imaging may be done once a patient experiences symptoms, but that implies the burden of disease may already be substantial,” says study author Jacqueline S. Jeruss, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of surgery and biomedical engineering.
“Improved detection methods are needed to identify metastasis at a point when targeted treatments can have a significant beneficial impact on slowing disease progression.”
The results of the study on mice found that after 15 days of tumor initiation, there were 64 percent fewer cancer cells in the livers and 75 percent fewer cancer cells in the brains of mice with the scaffolds. These are two places where cancer often spreads through metastasis.