"Nailed" breast implants may prevent future cancer growth

Post-mastectomy breast implants covered in a "bed of nails" inhibit the return of cancerous cells.

Over 10% of women relapse within ten years of having breast cancer. Brown University researchers report they have developed a method of fighting cancer by co-opting the surface of breast implants, which many women choose following mastectomies.

The researchers covered the surface of implants with tiny bumps, about 1/50,000th the width of a human hair, made out of a biodegradable polymer. Breast cancer cells, which are stiffer than healthy cells, seem to perceive the bumpy surface like a bed of nails.

Study co-author Thomas Webster explains in a Brown University press release:

"We've created an (implant) surface with features that can at least decrease (cancerous) cell functions without having to use chemotherapeutics, radiation, or other processes to kill cancer cells. It’s a surface that’s hospitable to healthy breast cells and less so for cancerous breast cells."

The bumpy surface reduces the blood-vessel architecture on which breast cancer tumors rely. It also proved to decrease production of the VEGF protein essential to endothelial breast-cancer cells by 15%, compared to standard implant surfaces.

Malignant breast cells have a stiffer structure than typical cells. For this reason, they may have trouble wrapping themselves around the bumpy surface of the new implants, preventing the cancer cells from being able to take in nutrients from the implant surface.

The researchers found that implants with the micro bumps also yielded 23% more healthy breast cells than typical implants.

The team plans to investigate further into why the bed-of-nails implants succeed in suppressing cancerous cells, before introducing the implants in a clinical setting.

Photo: Tamoxifen Rx

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com