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Immunotherapy hydrogel tackles cancer with slow-release action

March 13, 2018

Known as STINGel (it activates the STimulator of INterferon Gene), the multi-domain peptide (MDP) gel releases a steady dose of treatment that triggers the immune system and helps fight cancerous cells. Immunotherapy is a well-established method of fighting cancer, but current techniques rely on multiple injections, as the drugs are quickly flushed from the body.

In contrast, the hydrogel is first injected as a liquid, which turns semi-solid in the body, then degrades over time. STINGel’s payload is immunotherapy drugs called cyclic dinucleotides (CDNs). According to Rice chemist and bioengineer Jeffrey Hartgerink, the concentration of CDN is key to attacking the cancer.

“The normal approach to CDN delivery is simple injection, but this leads to very rapid diffusion of the drug throughout the body and reduces its concentration at the site of the tumour to very low levels,” he said. “Using the same amount of CDN, the STINGel approach allows the concentration of CDN near the tumour to remain much higher for long periods of time.”

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