Current Affairs » New technology to trap cancer cells on the move

New technology to trap cancer cells on the move

New technology to trap cancer cells on the move

Cancer cells that move from a cancerous tumour to other parts of the body, leading to spread of the cancer to multiple sites in the body, can kill an individual very quickly. However, there is good news now from a husband and wife team of researchers at the university of Michigan, who has developed a new device that can be implanted in the body, and can trap cancer cells as they begin to wander to new sites in the body. The findings were reported in the journal Cancer Research of September 2016.

The study's authors, surgeon Jacqueline Jeruss and her husband Lonnie Shea who is a chemical engineer, had wanted to find a solution for patients who had been cured of cancer, but could be infected again because of cancer cells spreading to other parts of the body. These patients are like a ticking time bomb, according to Shea, since the cancer could come back any time in another part of the body.

The device that the couple have developed is about the size of a pencil eraser, and is made of the same material as that doctors use to sew up wounds. When the device is implanted in the body, the immune cells of the body flock to the implant, since they recognise it as a foreign body that should be fought against. It turns out that these immune cells can attract metastatic cells- the cancer cells that roam around.

When Shea and Jeruss did experiments on mice using the implant, they found that it attracted metastatic cells. They also found that mice which had cancer but had been fitted with the implant lived longer.

In their tests, half of the mice were fitted with implants. One month later, all the mice received an injection of breast cancer cells. Ten days later, the researchers cut out the animals’ tumors. A few days later, they checked each mouse’s liver and brain. In the mice with implants, it was found that 64 percent fewer cancer cells spread to the liver, and 75 percent fewer made it to the brain. Four in every 10 of the mice with implants were still alive six months later. However, all of the mice without implants died within 40 days of the removal of their tumors.

Another pleasant surprise was that cells trapped by the implant did not form new tumors.

Jeruss and Shea hope to test their device in people soon to see if the implant attracts cancer cells as it did in mice. The team also could study the cells that migrate to the implants to see what is different in them compared to normal non-cancerous cells. This could lead to developing new cancer-fighting therapies that target the troublesome cells.