Slow-release hydrogel aids immunotherapy for cancer
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IMAGE: A synthetic, injectable hydrogel developed at Rice University boosted the toxicity of a new class of cancer-fighting immunotherapy drugs. This scanning electron microscopy image shows the self-assembled nanofibers that make… view more 

Credit: Hartgerink Research Group/Rice University

An immunotherapy drug embedded in a slow-release hydrogel invented at Rice University in collaboration with the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) appears to be highly effective at killing cancer cells.

STINGel combines a new class of immunotherapy drugs called stimulator of interferon gene (STING) agonists with an injectable hydrogel that releases the drug in a steady dose to activate the immune system to kill cancer cells. It was developed by the Rice lab of chemist and bioengineer Jeffrey Hartgerink and Rice alum Simon Young, an assistant professor of oral and maxillofacial surgery at UTHealth.

In clinical trials, immunotherapy drugs have demonstrated strong cancer-fighting abilities. Research has also found that the drugs are flushed quickly from the body, and current trials require multiple injections.

The new research, which is detailed in Biomaterials, showed that slow-release peptide gels could continuously deliver immunotherapy drugs to tumor sites for long periods of time.

Hartgerink is a pioneer in the development of

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