New National Cancer Institute research shows a cancer-fighting gel applied directly to the surface of a mesothelioma tumor could “change the treatment paradigm” for this troublesome cancer.
NCI researchers in Maryland developed the treatment and tested it in animals with mesothelioma tumors. Their tests show mesothelioma tumors respond after just one application of the medication.
The authors of a new report on the treatment say surgeons could use it to enhance mesothelioma surgery. They could even use the cancer-fighting gel on its own as a stand-alone therapy.
The Challenge of Mesothelioma Tumor Shape
Malignant mesothelioma is a surface malignancy. Surface malignancies are tumors that grow on the surface of other organs or tissues. In the case of mesothelioma, tumors occur on the mesothelial membranes that surround organs.
Mesothelioma does not usually respond well to whole-body chemotherapy. And the flat, wide shape of mesothelioma tumors makes them hard to remove surgically. A cancer-fighting gel or liquid could help kill cells that surgeons either cannot see or cannot remove.
Researchers have experimented with delivering chemotherapy drugs in this way. A rinse of heated chemotherapy liquid is now the standard of care after peritoneal mesothelioma surgery.
The difference with a cancer-fighting gel is that the medication stays put. Even if the tumor gets moved around during surgery, the gel stays with it. This makes the new treatment unique and a potential game-changer for mesothelioma patients.
Preclinical Tests of the Cancer-Fighting Gel Look Promising
The gel developed at NCI is a peptide-based surface-fill hydrogel. It contains tiny particles of messenger RNA. These particles deliver scrambled messages into mesothelioma cells that inhibit their growth.
“Implanted SFH releases nanoparticles composed of microRNA and intrinsically disordered peptides that enter cancer cells attenuating their oncogenic signature,” explains lead study author Poulami Majumder.
Surgeons can either spray the cancer-fighting gel onto the tumor or use a syringe to squirt it on. The gel contains tumor-specific microRNA to target mesothelioma cells. Preclinical tests show it works.
“With a single application, SFH shows efficacy in four preclinical models of mesothelioma, demonstrating the therapeutic impact of the local application of tumour-specific microRNA, which might change the treatment paradigm for mesothelioma and possibly other surface cancers,” writes Dr. Majumder.
The next step for the cancer-fighting gel will be to test it in human mesothelioma patients.
Majumder, P, et al, “Surface-fill hydrogel attenuates the oncogenic signature of complex anatomical surface cancer in a single application”, September 23, 2021, Nature Nanotechnology, Online ahead of print, https://www.nature.com/articles/s41565-021-00961-w