A team of researchers at Rice University has received $45 million in federal funding to develop "sense-and-respond" implant technology that could slash U.S. cancer-related deaths by more than 50%.
The Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health, an independent entity within the National Institutes of Health, awarded the grant with the aim of improving immunotherapy outcomes for cancers that are usually difficult to treat.
"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, principal investigator on the project, said in a statement.
"This kind of 'closed-loop therapy' has been used for managing diabetes, where you have a glucose monitor that continuously talks to an insulin pump. But for cancer immunotherapy, it’s revolutionary."
Researchers hold the hope that cancer can be cured within 60 days via the implant, KHOU-11 reported.
"That's the hope. ... When immunotherapy works, the results are really dramatic," Veiseh said, KHOU-11 reported. "The cancer doesn't come back because you've educated the immune system to fight that cancer."
The Rice project and team — named THOR, an acronym for "targeted hybrid oncotherapeutic regulation" — includes engineers, physicians, and multidisciplinary specialists in synthetic biology, materials science, immunology, oncology, electrical engineering, artificial intelligence, and other fields spanning 20 different research labs.
The team's implant, or "hybrid advanced molecular manufacturing regulator," goes by the acronym HAMMR.
"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. As a result, today’s therapies treat cancer as if it were a static disease," 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.
"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."
The THOR cooperative agreement includes funding for a first-phase clinical trial of HAMMR for the treatment of recurrent ovarian cancer. The trial is slated to begin in the fourth year of THOR’s 5 1/2-year project.
Charlie McCarthy, a writer/editor at Newsmax, has nearly 40 years of experience covering news, sports, and politics.
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