‘Cancer Trap’ May Improve Early Diagnosis, Treatment of Prostate, Other Cancers

‘Cancer Trap’ May Improve Early Diagnosis, Treatment of Prostate, Other Cancers

An implanted medical device that attracts and kills cancer cells has received a European patent. The device was developed by The University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) and may be used for early diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer.

Current cancer treatments are not effective in preventing metastasis and circulating cancer cells from spreading to other body parts. Medications given after surgery to preclude adhesion of cancer cells to each other or other tissues also are not able to eliminate these cells or enable their collection to monitor  patients’ status.

To address these problems, investigators created a tiny device that can be placed under the skin. The so-called “cancer trap” uses an injection needle “to recruit the cancer cells into a small area where we can treat them with less overall side effects to the whole body,” Liping Tang, PhD, inventor of the device and a bioengineering professor at UTA, said in a press release.

“Our cancer trap works just like a roach motel, where you put in some bait and the roach goes there and dies,” Tang commented.

According to Tang, the new method is effective for the diagnosis and treatment of metastases, and may be used in combination with standard chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

The cancer trap releases different chemokines — small proteins that help attract white blood cells — or other regulatory proteins to recruit cancer cells in the bloodstream and expose them to chemotherapeutic molecules to prevent spreading.

The device, Tang underscored, is “really complementary to current cancer treatments and especially beneficial at the early stages when it is difficult to see if the cancer is spreading as there are few cancer cells.” The scientists also found the new method “very effective in late stage cancers to stop the spread of the disease and to prolong lifespan,” Tang added.

Besides prostate cancer, preclinical experiments supported the trap’s effectiveness on melanoma, breast cancer, lung cancer, leukemia, and esophageal cancer.

The research team is hoping to conduct clinical trials “as this technology could potentially significantly increase the lifespan of cancer patients,” Tang said.