More reports on: Materials

Graphene can help improve chemotherapy results: Study

13 July 2015

A study led by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim, hs shown that anti-bacterial silver coating used on catheters degraded some chemotherapy drugs potentially reducing their effectiveness.

The findings of the study are reported in the journal 2D Materials.

Senior author Justin Wells, an associate professor of physics at NTNU, says,

"We wanted to find potential problem sources in the tubes used in intravenous catheters. An interaction between the coating and the drugs was one possibility. Chemotherapy drugs are active substances, so it isn't hard to imagine that the medicine could react with the silver."

For their investigation, Wells and colleagues focused on 5-Fluorouracil (5FU), one of the most commonly used chemotherapy drugs, used to treat cancers of the head and neck, bowel, breast, stomach, ovaries and esopaghus.

Wells explained that as far as they knew, reactions between chemotherapy drugs and the substances they came into contact with had not been studied like this before. The assumption was that they entered the body fully intact.

Wells and his students used x-ray photoemission spectroscopy (XPS) to look at the surface chemistry of one of the most commonly used chemotherapy drugs, 5-Fluorouracil (5-Fu), and the interaction between it and the type of silver coating found in medical equipment.

Using an XPS instrument at the synchrotron lab MAX IV in Sweden, they found that the anti-bacterial silver coating actually breaks down the drugs.

Not only does this reduce the effect of a chemotherapy treatment, but it also creates hydrogen fluoride, a gas that can be harmful both to the patients and to the medical equipment.

''Reactions between chemotherapy drugs and other substances that the drugs come in contact with have, as far as we know, never been studied like this before,'' Wells says. It has always been assumed that the drugs reach the body fully intact.

The group continued its studies with the XPS instrument, now examining how the same chemotherapy drugs reacted with graphene.

''Graphene is a non-reactive substance, and is sometimes referred to as a magical material that can solve any problem. So we thought that it might be a good combination with the chemotherapy drugs,'' Wells explains.

And they were right - the drugs did not react with the graphene.

Graphene has already been suggested as a coating for medical equipment, and according to researchers, it should be possible to create thin layers of graphene designed for this use.

''This research has produced valuable information about the interaction between chemotherapy drugs and other substances that the medicine is in contact with. We hope that our work will contribute to making cancer treatment more effective, and that we can continue our work in this area. We would like to study the reaction between chemotherapy drugs and other substances and coatings used on medical equipment,'' Wells concludes.

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