Device Reaches Where Cancer Drugs Cannot

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A new device that uses tiny electric fields can help deliver chemotherapy drugs right where they are needed and might make treatments more effective and less toxic, researchers reported Wednesday.

It might be especially helpful for people with one of the deadliest cancers — pancreatic cancer, which kills more than 80 percent of patients, even those with early stage of the cancer, the researchers report in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Tests in dogs and mice suggested it can work safely — and showed it shrinks tumors more quickly than infusing drugs into a vein. And because the drugs don’t circulate throughout the body, it should radically reduce side-effects.

"Once this goes to clinical trials, it could shift the paradigm for pancreatic cancer treatments — or any other solid tumors where standard IV chemotherapy drugs are hard to get to," said Jen Jen Yeh of the University of North Carolina, who led the study.

The device uses an electric current to drive drugs into tumors using a process known as iontophoresis. It can be implanted into a tumor or the electricity can be delivered through the skin.

“Our device has the potential to be an adjunct to surgery,” the researchers wrote.

The American Cancer Society says about 49,000 Americans will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in a year and more than 40,000 will die of it.

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— Maggie Fox

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