Chemotherapy is one of the most ubiquitous, and scary, options for treating cancer. While chemotherapy is attacking the cancer, it is also causing damage to other systems, sometimes to a lethal extent. The demand to make chemotherapy safer has led a group of scientists out of Columbia University to invent a device that might revolutionize cancer treatment.

Using hydrogel polymers, the team created a soft implantable device that can administer drugs from inside the body. This device, called “implantable micro-electromechanical systems” (iMEMS), is rotated using an external magnet. Each full rotation allows one of six reservoirs to release medication into the surrounding tissue.

With the iMEMS, the researchers were able to use 10% of a regular chemotherapy dose over 10 days to achieve a 56% reduction in tumor size in mice. This is quite an improvement over the 39% (high dose) or 19% (low dose) reduction achieved in standard treatments. The proximity to the target area allows for a much smaller dose to be used at a higher effectiveness, which in turn limits the negative effects on the body.

It is unlikely this device would become commercially available to people who have everyday prescriptions. However, for patients that require frequent biopsies, the surgeries provide doctors with opportunities to implant, remove, and refill the device often. This device could significantly increase their quality of life. The researchers outline impressive future steps to increase the efficacy and ubiquity of iMEMS and make note that the manufacturing process can easily be adapted to other implants, such as pacemakers.

Acknowledgements: Many thanks to Christopher Gerry for his insight on this article. Chris is a graduate student in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Harvard University. 

Managing Correspondent: Zane Wolf

Original Article and Image Credit: Additive manufacturing of hydrogel-based materials for next-generation implantable medical devices – Science Robotics

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Popular Media Articles: This implantable micro-machine can deliver medications from inside the body – Science Alert

3 thoughts on “A new medical implant might greatly reduce the risk of chemotherapy treatment

  1. Chris and Zane, great info. The advances in medicine such as this are hugely impactful on patients with seemingly extreme cases. I wonder if this same technology can be applied to other such implantations or more effective means of delivery of medicine for other diseases? Thanks!

  2. I love to see medical treatments that happen to act as a substitute for chemotherapy. My wife struggles with some serious health issues. I definitely think that we should find some special treatment to help her to recover properly.

  3. Lots of new medical techniques and technologies getting really helpful. These days new ways of recovery especially when it comes to cancer make it easier so it’s very fulfilling to hear about things like this.

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