Researchers at Purdue Create Filler That May Help Regenerate Tissue in Breast Cancer Patients

In 2020, more than 2.3 million women throughout the world were diagnosed with breast cancer. As a result, many women have needed surgery to remove tumors. New technology from Purdue University may help breast cancer patients and survivors see better tissue regeneration following these procedures.

Purdue researchers teamed up with breast surgeon Carla Fisher from Indiana University School of Medicine and Purdue startup GeniPhys to create and study a regenerative tissue filler. Researchers say the in situ scaffold-forming collagen performed well when applied to soft tissue defects and voids. The results were recently published in Scientific Reports.

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Sherry Harbin, a professor at Purdue’s Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering and founder of GeniPhys, says, “It would assist in maintaining the quality of life and emotional well-being of millions of breast cancer survivors each year worldwide.”

Harbin’s lab designed and patented the collagen polymer used in the technology. It adapts to the shape of a patient’s tissue voids and forms a fibrillary collagen scaffold like those found naturally within tissue. When applied to breast tissue voids like those found after a lumpectomy, the filler restored breast shape and consistency and helped new breast tissue form, including mammary glands, ducts, and adipose tissue. It also helped discourage wound contraction and scar formation, which can cause pain and lead to breast deformities.

The technology may be beneficial to people dealing with other tissue-related problems, as well.

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Harbin says, “Such an approach may also benefit other patient populations in need of soft tissue restoration or reconstruction, including children with congenital defects, individuals with difficult-to-heal skin ulcers, individuals suffering from traumatic injuries and cancer patients requiring resection of tumors within tissues other than breast.”

The team is hoping to continue developing the filler, which Harbin thinks could also be used for purposes other than tissue regeneration, including therapeutic cell and drug delivery and enhancement of tissue-implantable devices. They’re currently reaching out to potential partners.

The American Cancer Society says lumpectomies differ, with the amount of tissue removed depending upon where the tumor is located and how large it is, among other factors. It can often change the shape of the breast or leave a scar or dimple at the removal site. However, with this kind of surgery, a woman is still able to keep most of her breast.

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