Simon Rondeau-Gagné in lab coatSimon Rondeau-Gagné is part of a team seeking to develop an implantable device that could detect and treat brain cancer.

Project to advance sensor combining cancer detection and treatment

A UWindsor-led research investigation is looking to create degradable electronics that could detect and treat brain cancer. The implanted electronics would detect cancer growth and then degrade and release medicine.

“The goal is to use materials chemistry, device engineering, and polymer science to get these little devices, which are sensors, to be physically placed at the site of the brain cancer that has been surgically removed,” says Simon Rondeau-Gagné.

“When there are biomarkers of the cancer relapsing, it triggers, and we could selectively degrade those devices which would liberate a drug for treatment — we call that E-Theranostic.”

The researchers received a grant of $250,000 over two years through the Tri-Agency New Frontiers in Research Fund (NFRF) - Exploration program for their project “Implantable Electronics and E-Theranostics: A Paradigm Shift in Brain Cancer Management.”

“All the engineering behind the sensor signal and polymer science will make sure they degrade,” says Dr. Rondeau-Gagné.

“We’re investigating how much will it degrade, how much will it liberate, will it liberate well enough, fast enough, and target enough. All those aspects.”

This revolutionary drug delivery method will be tested using 3D bio-printed brain models with cancer cells. John Trant will work with a team at the University of Victoria to bio-print the models.

The team includes Rondeau-Gagné and Dr. Trant of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry along with Jennifer Voth, a research associate at Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare and an adjunct assistant professor in the UWindsor Department of Kinesiology, and Konrad Walus of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of British Columbia.

Beyond the lab-based science research, Rondeau-Gagné says the team is taking the time to look at the bigger picture — at the possible clinical adoption of the medical technique down the line.

“We want to consult with a host of medical practitioners and patients to know what design criteria is required to maximize adoption, to design better with guidance,” he says.

“It is great to get a sensor to detect for something special and release treatment, but it has to be adopted or it’ll just be something that’s great in the lab and we want it to be adopted so it can be a real solution for patients.”

Voth, with her network of Windsor-Essex clinicians and cancer experts, will aid with the goal of adoption.

“Voth will be the bridge between the lab and the hospital, supported by WE-Spark Health Institute,” Rondeau-Gagné says.

“This grant is interdisciplinary, and we want to connect multiple fields together. We want to go beyond science and treatment and reach out to the medical community because if they don’t see value in a tool, they won’t use it.”

Rondeau-Gagné says the NFRF program is about high risk and high reward, and this really resonates with this project.

“We are going to learn a lot along the way with this project. We’ll learn about printing brain models, degradable polymers, we’ll learn about degradable electronics, we’ll learn about implants and drug release, but we’ll also learn about what patients are looking for out of treatment.”