New research and development for cancer-fighting breast implants

April 11, 2012

New research and development for cancer-fighting breast implants
New research and development for cancer-fighting breast implants

Researchers from two institutions, Brown University and the University of Akron are leading the way in developing breast implants that deter or even detect cancer cells.  These advancements might have a huge impact on women who have had breast cancer or those with a history of the disease in their family.

Biomedical scientists at Brown University have published results in the journal, Nanotechnology, documenting their creation of an implant with a microscopic "bed-of-nails" surface that prevents cancer cells from dwelling and thriving.

"It's a surface that's hospitable to healthy breast cells and less so for cancerous breast cells," said lead researcher, Thomas Webster. "This is like a bed-of-nails surface to them."

Webster and Lijuan Zhang, a chemistry graduate student, tested various types of raised surface implants and discovered that those with microscopic "pimples" measuring 23-nanometers each were most successful in helping healthy cells to grow. As a point of reference, a nanometer is 1/50,000th the width of a human hair. After just one day, this surface yielded 15 percent more healthy endothelial breast cells compared to a normal surface in tests. Researchers hope human trials using this technology will begin within five years.

In a related story, materials scientist, Judit E. Puskas, PhD and her team at the University of Akron are developing a breast implant that would help detect and destroy cancer cells through a $100,000 award from the GE Healthymagination Cancer Challenge. This contest generated more than 500 ideas from 40 countries and more than 200 academic institutions and researchers.

The new type of breast implant would have imbedded medication in the implants' polymer material that would help fight infection, reduce inflammation and possibly even target and destroy stray cancer cells.

Dr. Puskas has collaborated for seven years with Dr. Steven P. Schmidt who is working on biocompatibility and medical application of the product. He says, "The ability to locally target drug delivery has the potential to dramatically improve the course of treatment for breast cancer patients.”

According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), breast augmentation and breast lift surgery are two of the most popular plastic surgery procedures performed last year, with almost 444,000 surgeries performed.

While cancer-fighting breast implant technology is on the horizon, patients should consult with their board-certified oncologists and plastic surgeons for the most current and best options.

The mission of the Aesthetic Society includes medical education, public education and patient advocacy. Plastic Surgery News Briefs are summaries of current stories found through various news and magazine outlets that relate to or mention plastic surgery and cosmetic procedures. The views expressed in these news articles do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Aesthetic Society, but are merely published as an educational service to our members and the general public. For additional information on these subjects and other plastic surgery related topics, please go to

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