Personal Injury, Serious Injury & Clinical Negligence

Could a sponge save your life?

Research published in ‘Nature Communications’ has revealed that a small sponge-like implant could stop or limit the spread of cancer.

According to Cancer Research UK, 9/10 cancer deaths being caused by the spread of cancer as opposed to the original mass; this development could therefore be crucial in the fight for survival against cancer.

Loose cancer cells are attracted to other immune cells throughout the body and it is through this process that cancer spreads and secondary tumours (otherwise known as metastases) develop. The implant, made from biological material, attracts these immune cells, meaning that when the cancer cells find them they are stuck to the implant as opposed to other tissue. Initial studies by the University of Michigan, performed on mice with breast cancer, have shown that not only does the implant capture rogue cancer cells, but it appears to reduce the number of cells present at existing secondary sites.

If found to be suitable for use in humans, the implant will be inserted and scanned using special imaging that can differentiate between cancerous and non-cancerous cells. The appearance of cancerous cells will inform doctors that a patient’s cancer is spreading at an early stage, and presumably at what rate.

Whilst this finding offers a potentially life changing approach to cancer treatment, like all existing treatment and prevention, its ability to save lives will depend on early diagnosis and treatment of the primary tumour. The device would in theory be rendered useless if a patient already has significant and advanced metastases. To get the most benefit form the “sponge”, a patient would have to be diagnosed before any other cancer cells have spread, effectively making it possible to prevent or control the spread and development of the often fatal secondary tumours.

This amazing development should therefore not detract from research and education aimed at identifying primary cancer either before it develops or at its early stages. Patients should contact their GP immediately if they notice any symptoms or changes that could indicate cancer for the best chance of survival.

If you or anyone you know has been affected by cancer and has concerns about their treatment and diagnosis, please contact one of our specialist medical negligence lawyers on 0800 316 8892.