Some 12,000 people were diagnosed with soft-tissue sarcomas in 2015, and 5,000 died of the disease, according to the American Cancer Society. Survivors are often left debilitated from the treatment — a combination surgery and chemotherapy.
Teaming up with Jose Mejia Oneto of Shasqi, Inc., Royzen, an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry, is using bio-orthogonal chemistry to eliminate sarcomas with minimal side effects and greater efficacy.
Their method, dubbed as “catch and release” limits toxic damage on a patient’s body by only using chemotherapy drugs in vicinity to the tumor site. To make it work, researchers have developed a technology that positions biomaterial to activate systemically-administered chemo agents near the sarcoma location.
“Soft tissue sarcomas are particularly hard to treat due to the diverse composition and location of the tumors. Few treatment advances have been made in the past four decades,” said Royzen. “Our work with Shasqi has the potential to give patients of this rare cancer a more desirable treatment option and stronger chance at recovery.”
The researchers tested the innovation on mice, observing that site-activation of doxorubicin (a commonly-used chemotherapy drug) not only treated the sarcoma, but also kept it from coming back. In addition, their method had fewer side effects than those associated with traditional doxorubicin treatment including limited hair and weight loss and no decrease in red blood cells.
Royzen and Oneto said they plan to continue research in upcoming months. Specifically, they’re exploring ways to lower treatment toxicity even more. They also want to expand the approach to other types of cancerous tumors and drugs.