Biomedical engineers have demonstrated the most effective treatment for pancreatic cancer ever recorded in mouse models. The new treatment completely eliminated tumors in 80 percent of mice across several model types, including those considered the most difficult to treat.
The approach combines traditional chemotherapy drugs with a new method for irradiating the tumor. Rather than delivering radiation from an external beam that travels through healthy tissue, the treatment implants radioactive iodine-131 directly into the tumor within a gel-like depot that protects healthy tissue and is absorbed by the body after the radiation fades away.
The researchers used a substance made of elastin-like polypeptides (ELPs), which are synthetic chains of amino acids bonded together to form a gel-like substance with tailored properties. The ELP depot encases the iodine-131 and prevents it from leaking out into the body. The iodine-131 emits beta radiation, which penetrates the biogel and deposits almost all its energy into the tumor without reaching the surrounding tissue. Over time, the ELP depot degrades into its constituent amino acids and is absorbed by the body.
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