Slow-release hydrogel shows promise for cancer treatment

Preliminary findings from an investigation funded in part by the OMS Foundation indicate that an immunotherapy drug embedded in a slow-release hydrogel appears to be highly effective at killing cancer cells.

Dr. Simon Young and Dr. Jeffrey Hartgerink

According to its developers, 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. The biogel was developed by Simon Young, DDS, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth), and Rice University chemist and bioengineer Jeffrey Hartgerink, PhD. The OMS Foundation selected the project for a $75,000 Research Support Grant in 2017.

The new research, recently detailed in the journal Biomaterials, showed that slow-release multi-domain peptide gels (MDP) were effective in continuously delivering immunotherapy drugs, known as cyclic dinucleotides (CDNs), to tumor sites for long periods of time.

In preclinical trials, six of 10 rodents treated with STINGel showed significantly improved survival rates plus resistance to further implantation of cancer cells after 100 days, implying that their immune systems were trained to successfully identify and destroy both the existing cancer and future occurrence of that cancer. Read more about this project here.

The research also was supported by the National Institutes of Health, the Welch Foundation, the National Science Foundation and the Mexican National Council for Science and Technology.

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