With precision medicine an accepted paradigm in cancer treatment, finding the right targeted drug treatment for each patient can prove challenging.

MIT chemical engineers have designed an implantable device, which is about the size of a grain of rice and can carry small doses of up to 30 drugs. Once the device is implanted in a tumor and the drugs diffuse into the tissue, researchers can measure the effectiveness of each drug’s ability to kill the patient’s cancer cells.

The potential for eliminating much of the guesswork involved in selecting cancer treatments could lead to more effective treatment.

Oliver Jones, of MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research states, “You can use it to test a patient for a range of available drugs, and pick the one that works best.”

The study, recently published in Science Translational Medicine, was developed to help identify the most effective chemotherapy agents for each tumor prior to the actual administration of chemotherapy, therefore creating true precision-based cancer therapy.

Implanted Device Releases Drugs

The device can be implanted in a tumor using a biopsy needle. Drugs are released into the tumor without overlapping each other. After 24-hours of drug exposure, the device is removed, along with a sample of the tumor tissue surrounding it. Researchers then analyze the drug effects by slicing up the tissue sample and staining it with antibodies that can detect markers of cell death or proliferation.

Although this is a promising field of research, it is still a long way from implementation. The authors plan to launch a clinical trial in breast cancer patients next year.

Another possible use for this device is to develop and test new cancer drugs, allowing researchers to test variations of a compound all at once in a small trial of human patients before launching a larger clinical trial.

A more detailed description of the study can be found in an article from Bioscience Technology.