CWRU/University Hospitals of Cleveland researchers investigate new cancer treatment

CLEVELAND--Biomedical engineers and physicians at Case Western Reserve University and University Hospitals of Cleveland have created an innovative drug delivery device, a biodegradable polymer rod smaller than the tip of a lead pencil, to help treat liver cancer.

"These rods serve as magic bullets, which will be inserted into a tumor in the liver using an image-guided minimally invasive procedure. Each rod is smaller than the tip of a sharpened pencil and provides dual release kinetics of an anti-tumor agent -- an initial burst of drug therapy followed by sustained release," said Jinming Gao, the lead researcher and assistant professor in the department of biomedical engineering at CWRU. "The design of dual-release kinetics is novel and can potentially allow the most effective and safest means of local drug therapy."

Gao developed the device with the help of a $1.2 million grant from the National Cancer Institute, an arm of the National Institutes of Health. He has collaborated closely with John Haaga, M.D., chair of radiology at University Hospitals of Cleveland. Haaga originally conceived the concept of combining radiofrequency ablation with polymer/chemical implantation.

The researchers plan to evaluate the new device and treatment approach in a rabbit liver tumor model. The combined procedure is not currently being used in patients. The research team plans to compare this new method to single treatment by radiofrequency ablation, a minimally invasive procedure in which a needle electrode is inserted through the skin and guided into a tumor by an imaging method such as computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). An electric current is then introduced through the electrode to elevate the tissue temperature to 80-90 °C to destroy the tumors. Radiofrequency ablation research is under Phase II clinical trials at University Hospitals of Cleveland under the leadership of Haaga and Jonathan Lewin, professor of radiology at

Contact: Marci E. Hersh
Case Western Reserve University

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