Researchers from UCLA have created a new spray gel with immune-boosting drugs embedded inside that could help prevent cancers from reoccurring after surgery, a major concern for many suffering from the disease.
The spray is loaded with calcium carbonate nanoparticles that include an antibody that specifically targets a protein that cancer cells release that protects the cancer against the body’s immune system attacks called CD47.
Calcium carbonate gradually dissolves in the slightly acidic surgical wound sites and boosts the activity of a type of macrophage that helps the body get rid of foreign objects. By blocking CD47, the antibody enables the immune system to find and destroy the cancer cells.
“We also learned that the gel could activate T cells in the immune system to get them to work together as another line of attack against lingering cancer cells,” Qian Chen, the study’s lead author and a postdoctoral researcher, said in a statement.
In a peer-reviewed study, the researchers tested the spray on mice who had advanced melanoma tumors surgically removed. The gel ultimately reduce the growth of the tumor cells that remained after surgery, preventing the recurrence of cancer and helping 50 percent of the mice to survive at least 60 days without the tumors regrowing.
The spray both inhibited the recurrence of the tumors in the previously cancerous area of the body and controlled the development of tumors in other body parts.
The researchers believe the spray can be applied to the tumor resection site by surgeons immediately after a tumor is removed during surgery.
“This sprayable gel shows promise against one of the greatest obstacles in curing cancer,” Zhen Gu, a professor of bioengineering at the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering and member of the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, said in a statement. “One of the trademarks of cancers is that it spreads.
“In fact, around 90 percent of people with cancerous tumors end up dying because of tumor recurrence or metastasis,” he added. “Being able to develop something that helps lower this risk for this to occur and has low toxicity is especially gratifying.”
The researchers plan to continue testing the spray in animals to discover the optimal dosage, best mix of nanoparticles and ideal treatment frequency before they will move forward with clinical testing on humans.
The study was published in Nature Nanotechnology.