A bumpy “bed of nails” surface does not allow cancerous cells to gather the nutrients they need  (Source: Webster Lab/Brown University)
A reconstructed surface of the implant pushes malignant cancer cells away and welcomes healthy endothelial cells

Brown University researchers have created a breast implant that reduces the chance of breast cancer relapse.

Thomas Webster, study leader and associate professor of engineering at Brown University, and a team of researchers, have developed a special implant capable of drawing in healthy endothelial cells for those who have had breast tumors removed.

When breast cancer patients have a tumor removed, many have some sort of breast reconstruction completed. Implants are common solutions, but even after the tumor is removed, the American Cancer Society says malignant cells return in about one-fifth of women diagnosed.

To provide a form of breast reconstruction and to prevent relapse, Brown University researchers made an implant made of a common, federally approved polymer with a "bed of nails" surface at the nanoscale level. This surface reduces the blood-vessel construction that cancer cells thrive on, and even lures in healthy endothelial cells for the breast tissue.

The biodegradable polymer was made with 23-nanometer-diameter polystyrene beads and polylactic-co-glycolic acid (PLGA). The implant's PLGA surface had 23-nanometer peak surfaces as well as 300-nanometer and 400-nanometer peaks.

According to lab results, the 23-nanometer surfaces provided a 15 percent decrease in the production of the VEGF protein, which breast cancer cells depend on. The 23-nanometer surfaces were better at keeping the protein away than the 300 and 400-nanometer surfaces, but researchers are unsure why. They also found that the 23-nanometer peaks attracted 15 percent more healthy endothelial cells compared to regular surfaces.

The stiffness of malignant breast cancer cells that are unable to latch onto the bumpy surface because the raised surface acts as a bed of nails.

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

The researchers are now working on other potential surfaces that can send cancer cells packing, and are also testing other materials to get the job done.

Source: Brown University

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