Targeting leukaemia with personalised treatment
EU-funded researchers are developing a personalised dosing solution for chemotherapy targeting leukaemia using advanced microfluidic chips to meet the precise medical requirements of individual patients.
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Worldwide, more than a quarter of a million people are diagnosed with leukaemia each year including around 75 000 in Europe accounting for 2.5 % of all cancers. Significantly, the disease accounts for 35 % of all cancers in children up to the age of 14.
Though leukaemia treatments have advanced rapidly in recent years, the development of new therapeutic strategies and innovative drug delivery devices is considered essential to increasing long-term survival rates and reducing the debilitating side effects of chemotherapy.
The EU-funded MEDLEM project is harnessing advances in nano- and microtechnologies to develop and test a multi-functional and patient-tailored dosing solution for leukaemia patients. The goal is to enhance therapy and reduce treatment side effects, improving patients quality of life and their long-term prognosis.
The solution involves microfluidic chips tiny biomedical devices able to accurately control the flow of drugs into the body and promises to transform treatments for many diseases that require frequent and carefully regulated doses of medication.
We are focusing our work on two main tasks: firstly, capturing pathology and physiology data in computer models combined with specific data about the health and treatment responses of individual patients in order to test the dynamics of different drug administration procedures, says MEDLEM project coordinator Goran Stojanović of the University of Novi Sad in Serbia. Secondly, we will use this data to define an optimal dosing solution implemented via a smart microfluidic device.
Stojanović and the MEDLEM team are confident that the widespread use of microfluidic chips enabling personalised dosing will improve long-term prognoses, especially in children.
The approach constitutes a state-of-the-art implementation of fractional pharmacokinetics, an emerging field that uses mathematical modelling to study the course and accumulation of specific drugs in the body quantitatively.
Applied in a clinical setting, this will enable doctors to define which chemotherapy strategy should be assigned to each individual patient based on their physiology and pathology, ensuring effective treatment, decreased side effects and maintaining drug toxicity below permitted limits.
It will solve the current problem of uncontrolled dosing regimens in which the amount and frequency of each dose is defined by broad guidelines and not tailored to meet each individual patients needs, providing optimised, personalised chemotherapy instead.
Chip holds much promise
The MEDLEM multidisciplinary team consisting of researchers and private companies from France, Germany, Serbia, Australia and Thailand plans to test its approach in both laboratory and clinical trials. The planned microfluidic chip will measure the patients bio-physical parameters in real time and deliver correctly adjusted doses of medication at optimal frequencies.
The device will utilise recent advances in microfluidics technology, which have enabled microfluidic chips to be manufactured with in-built electronic microcontrollers that are lightweight, shock resistant and low-cost yet capable of meeting complex drug flow control requirements.
We firmly believe that more sophisticated therapy models based on the bio-physical parameters of each patient, combined with innovative electronic devices for drug administration, can contribute to significant progress in the treatment of malignant diseases, Stojanović says.
MEDLEM received funding through the EUs Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions programme.