Scientists at the University of Michigan are working on a new implantable device that’s designed to soak up wandering cancer cells throughout the body. They’re hoping it’ll eventually be refined to slow the spread of the deadly disease between the body’s organs.
While tests have only been conducted on mice, the implant does halt wandering cells from reaching other areas where tumors could potentially form. If the sponge-like device has the same effect on humans, it’ll be excellent news, as 9 out of 10 cancer deaths are caused by the disease spreading to other parts of the body, according to Cancer Research UK and The American Cancer Society.
The new device – which researchers are calling a “super-attractor” – attracts cells in the bloodstream in the early stages. Cancer cells don’t just randomly metastasize anywhere in the body, but from cells broken off from a tumor, they flow in the blood until they reach a specific environment — one which proves hospitable. Stopping the cells from grouping and growing into a cancerous tumor is what the cancer sponge does.
The study, which was published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications, shows that mice implanted with the device reduced the spread of cancer cells from elsewhere in the body to the lungs by 88%.
“Breast cancer is a disease that can recur over a long period in a patient’s life, and a recurrence is often very difficult to detect until the cancer becomes established in another organ (…) Something like this could be monitored for years and we could use it as an early indicator of recurrence,” explained Jacqueline Jeruss, one of the study’s authors.