A new study by Lyle Hood, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), describes a new device that could revolutionize the delivery of medicine to treat cancer as well as a host of other diseases and ailments.
Hood developed the device in partnership with Alessandro Grattoni, chair of the Department of Nanomedicine at Houston Methodist Research Institute.
“The problem with most drug-delivery systems is that you have a specific minimum dosage of medicine that you need to take for it to be effective,” Hood said. “There’s also a limit to how much of the drug can be present in your system so that it doesn’t make you sick.”
As a result of these limitations, a person who needs frequent doses of a specific medicine is required to take a pill every day or visit a doctor for injections. Hood’s creation negates the need for either of these approaches, because it’s a tiny implantable drug delivery system.
“It’s an implantable capsule, filled with medicinal fluid that uses about 5000 nanochannels to regulate the rate of release of the medicine,” Hood said. “This way, we have the proper amount of drugs in a person’s system to be effective, but not so much that they’ll harm that person.”
The capsule can deliver medicinal doses for several days or a few weeks. According to Hood, it can be used for any kind of ailment that needs a localized delivery over several days or a few weeks. This makes it especially tailored for treating cancer, while a larger version of the device, which was originally created by Grattoni, can treat diseases like HIV for up to a year.
“In HIV treatment, you can bombard the virus with drugs to the point that that person is no longer infectious and shows no symptoms,” Hood said. “The danger is that if that person stops taking their drugs, the amount of medicine in his or her system drops below the effective dose and the virus is able to become resistant to the treatments.”
The capsule, however, could provide a constant delivery of the HIV-battling drugs to prevent such an outcome. Hood noted it can also be used to deliver cortisone to damaged joints to avoid painful, frequent injections, and possibly even to pursue immunotherapy treatments for cancer patients.
“The idea behind immunotherapy is to deliver a cocktail of immune drugs to call attention to the cancer in a person’s body, so the immune system will be inspired to get rid of the cancer itself,” he said.
The current prototype of the device is permanent and injected under the skin, but Hood is working with Teja Guda, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, to collaborate on 3-D printing technology to make a new, fully biodegradable iteration of the device that could potentially be swallowed.
Researchers at Houston Methodist have developed an artificial intelligence (AI) software that reliably interprets mammograms, assisting doctors with a quick and accurate prediction of breast cancer risk. According to a new study published in Cancer (early online Aug. 29), the computer software intuitively translates patient charts into diagnostic information at 30 times human speed and with 99 percent accuracy.
“This software intelligently reviews millions of records in a short amount of time, enabling us to determine breast cancer risk more efficiently using a patient’s mammogram. This has the potential to decrease unnecessary biopsies,” says Stephen T. Wong, Ph.D., P.E., chair of the Department of Systems Medicine and Bioengineering at Houston Methodist Research Institute.
The team led by Wong and Jenny C. Chang, M.D., director of the Houston Methodist Cancer Center used the AI software to evaluate mammograms and pathology reports of 500 breast cancer patients. The software scanned patient charts, collected diagnostic features and correlated mammogram findings with breast cancer subtype. Clinicians used results, like the expression of tumor proteins, to accurately predict each patient’s probability of breast cancer diagnosis.
In the United States, 12.1 million mammograms are performed annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Fifty percent yield false positive results, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS), resulting in one in every two healthy women told they have cancer.
Currently, when mammograms fall into the suspicious category, a broad range of 3 to 95 percent cancer risk, patients are recommended for biopsies.
Over 1.6 million breast biopsies are performed annually nationwide, and about 20 percent are unnecessarily performed due to false-positive mammogram results of cancer free breasts, estimates the ACS.
The Houston Methodist team hopes this artificial intelligence software will help physicians better define the percent risk requiring a biopsy, equipping doctors with a tool to decrease unnecessary breast biopsies.
Manual review of 50 charts took two clinicians 50-70 hours. AI reviewed 500 charts in a few hours, saving over 500 physician hours.
“Accurate review of this many charts would be practically impossible without AI,” says Wong.
Houston Methodist Hospital is the flagship hospital of The Methodist Hospital System.
Located in the Texas Medical Center in Houston, Texas, The Methodist Hospital was established in 1919 as an outreach ministry of Methodist Episcopal Church. Methodist is one of the most comprehensive teaching hospitals in the United States, with leading specialists in every field of medicine. The hospital has consistently ranked as “One of America’s Best Hospitals” according to U.S. News and World Report.
The hospital has earned worldwide recognition in multiple specialties including cardiovascular surgery, cancer and epilepsy treatment and organ transplantation.
Primarily affiliated with Weill Cornell Medical College of Cornell University and New York-Presbyterian Hospital, the hospital directs millions of dollars into research and advances in patient care. Methodist offers the latest innovations in medical, surgical and diagnostic techniques. The Methodist Hospital system was named one of “Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For” in 2006 and ranked ninth in the “Top 10 Companies to Work For” in 2007 and ranked eighth in 2008 according to Fortune Magazine. It now ranks seventeenth in Fortune Magazine.
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