A new material was developed to soak up chemotherapy drugs after the tumor is treated and before they can circulate throughout the body. This material, called the ChemoFilter, has the potential to limit some of the harmful side effects of chemotherapy.1

The ChemoFilter is constructed of polymer membranes, like those used in fuel cells. The device is inserted into a vein through a separate catheter while a concentrated dose of chemotherapy is administered. The device soaks up most of the unabsorbed drug. The developers report this system has potential for antibiotic treatments as well.

The device has a negative electric charge, allowing it to capture positively charged chemotherapy drugs, such as doxorubicin, a chemotherapy commonly used to treat liver cancer.

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“Doxorubicin has been around for decades. It is very well understood, and it is also very toxic,” explained Steven Hetts, MD, an associate professor of radiology at the University of California San Francisco and an interventional neuroradiologist at the UCSF Medical Center, San Francisco, California. Hetts conceived the idea for the ChemoFilter. Overexposure to doxorubicin can cause heart failure. In laboratory experiments, the ChemoFilter efficiently captured excess doxorubicin.

“In our lab experiments, the current design can absorb 90% of the drug in 25 to 30 minutes,” said Xi Chelsea Chen, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher who worked on the project at Soft Matter Electron Microscopy program at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, California.

This device could represent an improvement over other options intended to reduce circulating chemotherapy. TACE, an increasingly popular treatment for liver cancer, allows up to half of the chemotherapy dose to circulate through the body even though it is intended to reduce circulating chemotherapy.

The researchers hope this device will find use in cancer treatment within the few years.


1. New chemical ‘sponges’ designed to soak up toxic cancer-fighting drugs after targeting tumors [news release].
Berkeley, CA: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; June 7, 2016. http://newscenter.lbl.gov/2016/06/07/new-chemical-sponges-for-cancer-fighting-drugs/. Accessed June 20, 2016.