Nanotech Breast Implant Can Deter Cancer Cells

An experimental breast implant using nanotech polymers can lower the risk of breast-cancer recurrence, according to a recent news release by Brown University. The results of the study, which have been published in the journal Nanotechnology, could herald the future development of cancer-deterring implants for widespread use.

ScienceDaily reports that one on eight American women will develop breast cancer at some point during their lives. Many will undergo mastectomy, which removes a breast to forestall future cancer development, and breast reconstruction surgery, which aims to restore the appearance of a lost breast. However, writes ScienceDaily, “malignant cells return for as many as one-fifth of women originally diagnosed.”

Biomedical scientists at Brown, determined to find implant materials that might reduce the rate of recurrence, have successfully developed and tested an experimental implant. “We’ve created an (implant) surface with features that can at least decrease (cancerous) cell functions without having to use chemotherapeutics, radiation, or other processes to kill cancer cells,” Thomas Webster, one of the study authors, told ScienceDaily.

The new implant employs a “bed-of-nails” surface (at an extremely tiny scale) with a common polymer that has already been approved by the US government. This surface prevents cancer cells from thriving while attracting healthy cells.

How Does It Work?

The implant’s surface has adjoining, 23-nanometer-high “pimples.” These discourage the production of a certain protein, VEGF, which is vital to the production of endothelial breast-cancer cells. Scientists discovered that there was a 15 percent reduction in VEGF concentration at the site of the implant.

While there are several theories about why this process works, Webster believes that it likely results from the stiffness of breast-cancer cells. “When they come into contact with the bumpy surface, they are unable to fully wrap themselves around the rounded contours, depriving them of the ability to ingest the life-sustaining nutrients that permeate the surface.”

Image source: Webster Lab/Brown University

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