Could An Implantable Bio-Battery Help Kill Cancer Cells?

Cancer research is one of the fastest-moving fields in medicine, and private oncology is in a position to evaluate, monitor and adopt promising novel treatments.

One of the most unusual treatments proposed recently involved the use of an implantable biocompatible self-charging battery that could potentially help to starve cancer cells of oxygen, suppress tissue growth and help chemotherapy drugs designed for low-oxygen environments to work better.

The layered battery system, made from zinc electrodes and a biocompatible polyamide, would be wrapped around a tumour and react to oxygen around it, slowly starving the tumour of the oxygen it needs to encourage cell growth.

When it was used in a mouse clinical trial a tumour reduced in size by over a quarter within a week, a remarkable figure that increased to 90 per cent when used with chemotherapy medication that is hypoxia-activated.

This is fascinating not only for the results shown but also that low-oxygen cancer medication had previously been seen as reaching an impasse; whilst the concept was theoretically capable of strong results, clinical studies had found the medication did not reach a satisfactory level of efficacy.

Part of the problem was that previous ways to create a low-oxygen environment required repeated doses of deoxygenation agents that could cause damage to normal tissue, creating a dosage dilemma similar to some older forms of radiotherapy.

An implanted battery wrapped around the tumour fixes both issues at once and can provide at least 14 days of effects without causing any potential safety issues.

It is important to note that this technology is at a very early stage and has only been tested on mice, so it may be several years before it sees use as a way to reduce tumours in patients, but it does prove that the principle can work and could be applied to other types of treatment outside of oncology.