Tiny Microdevices Boost Cancer Therapies

Treating cancers with hypoxic centers may soon include implantable oxygen generators

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) It's so tiny that it can be implanted through a biopsy needle. Yet what this device does is anything but tiny, and could be a big boon to cancer therapy.

Researchers at Purdue University have developed a miniature oxygen generator that can be implanted next to a tumor to ramp up the effectiveness of traditional cancer treatments, including chemotherapy and radiation.

"Implantable microdevices may improve effectiveness of cancer therapies."

This new technology is designed specifically for solid tumors that are known to be hypoxic, which means they have low oxygen levels at the core. Hypoxic centers are particularly difficult to kill, says Babak Ziaie, a Purdue University professor of electrical and computer engineering and biomedical engineering.

He tells dailyRx, "Many solid tumors have hypoxic centers, pancreatic and cervical cancers are known to be more so."

So why do oxygen levels matter? Radiation needs oxygen to work. Ziaie explains that generating oxygen in the tumor works to help both radiation and chemotherapy to be more effective.

The device - what Ziaie calls an "implantable micro oxygen generator" - is an electronic microdevice that uses ultrasound to generate electrolysis, which separates oxygen and hydrogen from water.

In animal studies, the generator shrunk pancreatic tumors faster than tumors without the device.

The device, created at the Birck Nanotechnology Center in the University's Discovery Park, is less than one centimeter long and can be inserted into tumors using a hypodermic biopsy needle.

Ziaie and his team are working with Song-Chu (Arthur) Ko, an assistant professor of clinical radiation oncology at the Indiana University School of Medicine.

When asked what are next steps, Ziaie says, "We have done efficacy study in animals and hope to move to clinical trials in 2013."

Study findings have been published online in Transactions on Biomedical Engineering.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
September 2, 2011
Last Updated:
September 6, 2011