The balancing act of cancer treatment is targeting tumor cells while preserving healthy ones. Since chemotherapy drugs are typically administered intravenously, they can tip the balance by causing collateral damage on the long journey to the target tumor.

David Ting, MD, Assistant Physician at the Mass General Cancer Center, may have a solution: a flexible, drug-infused polymer patch that can be inserted via laparoscopic surgery and attached to the tumor itself. Dr. Ting began work on the innovation as a post-doc at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and he and colleagues have established a company, PanTher Therapeutics, to further develop the concept and ultimately bring it to patients. The company is about to begin phase I clinical trials as a first step. “I think there are certain cancers that this local delivery approach is highly relevant for,” says Dr. Ting. “This includes pancreas cancer, esophageal cancer and potentially mesothelioma—the ones we can’t get drugs into very well.”

In addition to reducing the system-wide toll of chemotherapy, the direct delivery system could enable the use of agents or doses too toxic to deliver intravenously. And it could unlock new immunotherapy approaches such as delivering cytokines to attract T-cells that attack cancer cells.

“You’re painting the target with all this cytokine storm stuff that is right on the tumor; that says ‘T-cells please come here and kill me,’” says Dr. Ting. “That’s probably going to work better if you can stick it on the tumor rather than injecting it.”

Read more on Dr. Ting’s research and the promising technology here.