3D printed magnetic pills promise targeted cancer treatment

Research carried out at Sussex University into the development of 3D printed magnetic pills could pave the way for a new era of targeted therapies.  

3D printed magnetic pills
3D printed reservoir used for placing the magnetically actuated sponge and drug to be delivered upon applying a magnetic field. Image: Sussex University

Working with a team at the The University of Texas at Austin the group from University’s School of Life sciences has used 3D printing technology and magnetic actuation to prove the concept of a drug release triggered by magnetic fields capable of inhibiting the proliferation of cancer cells in vitro.

While the research is in its initial phases, the researchers are working towards a system where it is possible to drive the drug delivery system towards the required position in the body using external means such as permanent magnets.

Targeted delivery of drugs could help eliminate harmful side effects caused by treatments like chemotherapy which damage neighbouring healthy cells, and also help clinicians optimise the dosage of drugs.

In a  study on the work published in the August edition of Colloids and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces, the group describes how it designed and built a  magnetically triggerable device composed of a magnetic polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) sponge cylinder and a 3D printed reservoir containing the anticancer drug 5-fluorouracil.

The device is switched on and off through the application of magnetic fields. The study demonstrated how varying the intensity of this field causes the internal magnetic sponge to be compressed at different ratios, which releases different amounts of the drug.

What’s more in vitro cell culture studies demonstrated the stronger the magnetic field applied, the higher the drug release and the greater inhibition effects on cancer cell growth.

Kejing Shi, doctoral researcher in Sussex University's School of Life Sciences and lead author of the study said: "The device offers the potential for personalised treatment through the loading of a given drug in a particular concentration and releasing it within different dosage patterns. All results confirmed that the device can provide a safe, long-term, triggerable and reutilisable way for localised disease treatments such as cancer."

The study’s co-author Prof. Ali Nokhodchi, added that the device has the potential to be used in treatments for cancer, diabetes, pain, and myocardial infarction.

The researchers said in a statement that this kind of smart treatment could be available for patients in hospitals within a decade.