MIT implant could measure tumor growth, treatment

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- A tiny implant now being developed at MIT could one day help doctors rapidly monitor the growth of tumors and the progress of chemotherapy in cancer patients.

The implant contains nanoparticles that can be designed to test for different substances, including metabolites such as glucose and oxygen that are associated with tumor growth. It can also track the effects of cancer drugs: Once inside a patient, the implant could reveal how much of a certain cancer drug has reached the tumor, helping doctors determine whether a treatment is working in a particular patient.

"You really want to have some sort of rapid measure of whether it's working or not, or whether you should go on to the next (drug)," said Michael Cima, the Sumitomo Electric Industries Professor of Engineering in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, and the leader of the research team.

Such nanoparticles have been used before, but for the first time, the MIT researchers have encased the nanoparticles in a silicone delivery device, allowing them to remain in patients' bodies for an extended period of time. The device can be implanted directly into a tumor, allowing researchers to get a more direct look at what is happening in the tumor over time.

With blood testing, which is now commonly used to track chemotherapy progress, it's hard to tell if cancer drugs are reaching their intended targets, says Grace Kim, a graduate student in the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology and one of the researchers working on the implant. That's because the system of blood vessels surrounding tumors is complicated, and you can't trust that drugs present in the blood have also reached the tumor, according to Kim.

The new technique, known as implanted magnetic sensing, makes use of detection nanoparticles composed of iron oxide and coated with a sugar called dextran. Antibodies specific to the target molecules are attache

Contact: Elizabeth Thomson
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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