Cancer Macrobead Research

The cancer program was formed to develop a treatment option for the large population of patients with end stage kidney disease as a result of their cancer. A cancer macrobead, similar to the islet macrobead, is used here but in this case tumor cells are encapsulated within the macrobead. The cells come from a frozen stock of well-characterized mouse tumor cells and form tumor colonies when placed inside the macrobead. The tumor colonies grow to a maximum size but cannot escape the confines of the macrobead. It is at this point of restricted growth that the encapsulated colonies produce proteins that not only inhibit their own growth, but also diffuse out of the macrobeads and retain the ability to inhibit the growth of tumors in patients. At least ten of the secreted proteins so far identified have known anti-cancer effects. A major research focus in the Xenia laboratories is to continually discover the molecular details of how these proteins work to inhibit tumor growth. Interestingly, the macrobeads have been shown to affect different types of tumors from several animal species demonstrating that many cancers respond to these proteins, which appear to be well conserved throughout evolution.

The cancer program has transitioned from pre-clinical research studies treating animals with various tumors to the first human trials. Multiple types of cancers were treated as part of a Phase 1 clinical safety trial.  Phase 2 efficacy trials have been initiated focusing on colorectal cancer, pancreatic cancer, and prostate cancer.  The colorectal cancer trial is multicenter and has prompted the development of a semi-automated production process for the manufacturing of the macrobeads that are used for this clinical research study. The Institute continues to work with the Food and Drug Administration in ongoing efforts to make this therapy available to as many people as possible.