Invasive and systemic cancer treatment is a necessary evil for many people with the devastating diagnosis. These patients endure therapies with ravaging side effects, including nausea, immune suppression, hair loss and even organ failure, in hopes of eradicating cancerous tissues in the body. If treatments targeted a patient's cancerous tissues, it could provide clinicians with an alternative to lessen the delivery of toxic levels of chemotherapy or radiation. Imagine the quality of life from such therapies for patients. Remarkably, research that began in space may soon result in such options here on Earth.
As we recognize February as National Cancer Prevention Month, it is useful to also point out the continuous improvements to cancer treatment through research and discovery. Using the distinctive microgravity environment aboard the International Space Station, a particular series of research investigations is making further advancements in cancer therapy. A process investigated aboard the space station known as microencapsulation is able to more effectively produce tiny, liquid-filled, biodegradable micro-balloons containing specific combinations of concentrated anti-tumor drugs. Using specialized needles, doctors can deliver these micro-balloons, or microcapsules, to specific treatment sites within a cancer patient. This kind of targeted therapy may soon revolutionize cancer treatment delivery.
Use of the microgravity environment aboard the space station for microencapsulation experiments was a necessity before the ability to develop an Earth-based technology for making these microcapsules. "The technique that we have for making these microcapsules could not be done on the ground, because the different densities of the liquids would layer," explained Dennis Morrison, Ph.D., retired NASA principal investigator of the Microencapsulation Electrostatic Processing System-II (MEPS-II) study and current vice president and director for microencapsu
|Contact: Laura Niles|
NASA/Johnson Space Center