July 30, 2021 – Since the conception of cancer drugs, they are produced from plants, animals and microorganisms. But these biological sources of drugs often break down easily before reaching their targets.
To stop this deterioration and prevent side effects, scientists have been looking for a more efficient way to deliver and release anti-cancer drugs to tumor sites.
Today, researchers have discovered 3D hydrophilic polymers, called hydrogels, which are efficient drug delivery systems. Any medicine put inside these hydrogels remains stable.
Imagine taking anti-cancer drugs, therapies, or procedures that leave you with no side effects like hair loss: this is the future that hydrogels promise.
“Although hydrogels are still in their infancy, they are all the rage and are coming out slowly but surely,” says Guillermo De Angulo, MD, of KIDZ Medical in Miami. Japan and China are leading the way in using these gels in medicine, he says.
Unlike traditional methods of cancer treatment, which target rapidly dividing cells as well as healthy cells, “hydrogels allow you to deliver targeted doses to affected areas only,” say De Angulo and Ayoola Smith, professor at the University of Lagos in Nigeria. Smith specializes in pharmacognosy, the study of drugs made from plants and natural sources.
“For hydrogels to be used in the treatment of cancer, they must be responsive to various stimuli at the tumor site,” he says.
In addition to reacting to factors such as pH and temperature, hydrogels control the release of anticancer drugs by shrinking or swelling, depending on the acidity of the tumor environment.
De Angulo says that with this feature, the hydrogels are able to “improve the delivery mechanism to the area in question.”
“In cases where tumor resection has been performed, i.e. removal of cancerous tissue with small incisions, hydrogels are applied to these areas to attack cells invisible to the naked eye and also improve the healing process, ”he says.
According to previous research by Japanese scientists, tumors work by reducing our body’s pH from 7.4 to an acidic pH. De Angulo believes that these tumor cells use byproducts of cancer metabolism to lower the body’s pH.