Implants explored as way to prevent recurrence of brain cancer

Jun 24, 2024

The research group of chemistry professor Nick Vukotic (seated in jacket) is exploring biodegradable material to treat brain cancer.

Professor Nick Vukotic is helping design a novel biodegradable material that could potentially treat one of the deadliest brain cancers, glioblastoma.

Once implanted, the polymeric material would deliver chemotherapy medications. The release rate of the drug would be controlled by how fast that polymer degrades or breaks up.

“Brain cancer is very challenging to treat due to the impermeability of the blood-brain barrier and the sensitivity of the organ, with glioblastoma multiforme being one of the deadliest treatment-resistant cancers,” says Dr. Vukotic, an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

“We want to apply the chemistry to chemotherapy agents so that after the surgeons take out the primary tumour, they could place our drug-embedded polymer materials inside the surgical site to slowly release the chemotherapy agent to hopefully prevent tumour regrowth from cancer cells that are still there: preventing tumour regrowth for cancer patients.”

Their technology research contributions generated an April 2024 publication in Chemistry Science Journal, “Therapeutic Coordination Polymers: Tailoring Drug Release through Metal-Ligand Interactions,” in which researchers outline the science behind the patented technology.

“It is good at extending the release over a long time and in a steady way,” he says.

“The development of a new drug release implant that has controlled and consistent drug release of chemotherapy agents would overcome many of the challenges associated with current drug release systems, solving many problems.”

Vukotic says this new approach is a method that has been largely unexplored. He and his research team received a WE-Spark Health Institute Igniting Discovery Grant funded by Windsor Cancer Centre Foundation for their project, called “Improving outcomes in glioblastoma treatment: implantable therapeutic polymer composites for targeted drug delivery.”

This grant has personal meaning to Vukotic, whose mother died in 2012 after receiving treatment for glioblastoma.

“During the course of her treatment she had to take certain medications and she had issues with some dosages so she couldn’t undergo standard therapy, but if there was a better dosage form that was longer lasting, she may have responded better to it,” Vukotic says.

“But the worst part about glioblastoma is that the tumour tends to grow back in the same area, so if at the time of her surgeries they had a drug release material that they could have placed inside the surgical site, maybe it could have prevented tumour regrowth.”