Tiny Implantable Device Could Transform Delivery of Medications for Cancer, Other Diseases

Tiny Implantable Device Could Transform Delivery of Medications for Cancer, Other Diseases

An implantable device could transform the delivery of different medications, including immunotherapy drugs for cancer patients, by removing the need for daily pills or injections, according to a study.

The study, “Nanochannel Implants for Minimally-Invasive Insertion and Intratumoral Delivery,” was published in the Journal of Biomedical Nanotechnology.

Lyle Hood, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), conducted the investigation.

“The problem with most drug-delivery systems is that you have a specific minimum dosage of medicine that you need to take for it to be effective,” Hood said in a press release. “There’s also a limit to how much of the drug can be present in your system so that it doesn’t make you sick.”

Because of these restrictions, a person who needs regular doses of a medication often must take pills every day or visit a doctor for injections. The new device aims to make these daily chores a thing of the past.

Diagram describing how the device is implanted into a tumor. Credit: Lyle Hood/UTSA

“It’s an implantable capsule, filled with medicinal fluid that uses about 5,000 nanochannels to regulate the rate of release of the medicine,” Hood said. “This way, we have the proper amount of drugs in a person’s system to be effective, but not so much that they’ll harm that person.”

The device can deliver a certain dose of a specific treatment for several days or every day for a few weeks. According to Hood, it can be used to deliver different medicines to diseases that require localized delivery. This makes the device particularly suitable for administering immunotherapy drugs to treat cancer.

“The idea behind immunotherapy is to deliver a cocktail of immune drugs to call attention to the cancer in a person’s body so the immune system will be inspired to get rid of the cancer itself,” he said.

The device could also provide a regular delivery of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) drugs.

“In HIV treatment, you can bombard the virus with drugs to the point that that person is no longer infectious and shows no symptoms,” Hood said. “The danger is that if that person stops taking their drugs, the amount of medicine in his or her system drops below the effective dose and the virus is able to become resistant to the treatments.”

Hood developed the device in collaboration with Alessandro Grattoni, chair of the Department of Nanomedicine at Houston Methodist Research Institute. Grattoni developed a larger version of the implantable device last year, which can administer HIV drugs for up to a year.

The existing prototype of the device is permanent and administered through an injection beneath the skin. However, Hood is collaborating with Teja Guda, UTSA assistant professor of biomedical engineering, to develop a biodegradable device using 3D printing technology.