A team of scientists at Rice University in the United States has received $45 million in funding to develop sense-and-respond implant technology that could reduce cancer deaths by over 50 percent. The grant, given to a group of scientists led by Rice University and hailing from seven different states, would hasten the creation and assessment of a novel cancer therapy strategy. With this strategy, the effectiveness of immunotherapy for patients with difficult-to-treat tumors like ovarian, pancreatic, and other malignancies will be markedly improved.
“Instead of tethering patients to hospital beds, IV bags, and external monitors, we’ll use a minimally invasive procedure to implant a small device that continuously monitors their cancer and adjusts their immunotherapy dose in real-time,” Rice bioengineer Omid Veiseh, the principal investigator (PI) on the ARPA-H cooperative agreement, said in a statement.
When used for cancer immunotherapy, closed-loop therapy-a strategy that was previously used to manage diabetes-is revolutionary. It involves constant contact between an insulin pump and glucose monitor.
The team consists of engineers, healthcare professionals, and a wide spectrum of specialists from various sectors, including synthetic biology, materials science, immunology, oncology, electrical engineering, and artificial intelligence, among others. THOR, an acronym for “targeted hybrid oncotherapeutic regulation”, is the name of this collaborative initiative and its team. The THOR-developed implant is known as HAMMR, which stands for “hybrid advanced molecular manufacturing regulator”.
“Cancer cells are continually evolving and adapting to therapy. However, currently available diagnostic tools, including radiologic tests, blood assays, and biopsies, provide very infrequent and limited snapshots of this dynamic process,” Dr. Amir Jazaeri, a co-principal investigator and professor of gynecologic oncology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, said in a statement.
“As a result, today’s therapies treat cancer as if it were a static disease. We believe THOR could transform the status quo by providing real-time data from the tumor environment that can in turn guide more effective and tumor-informed novel therapies,” he added.
“The technology is broadly applicable for peritoneal cancers that affect the pancreas, liver, lungs, and other organs,” said an associate professor of bioengineering at Rice.