Professor Sophie Lerouge

A cell-delivery hydrogel to fight cancer

June 1, 2018
There is an immunotherapy treatment that involves harvesting cells found inside a tumor that “specialize” in fighting the tumor. These cells are called Tumor-Infiltrating Lymphocytes (TIL). It takes billions of TILs to eradicate a tumor, so they must be multiplied in a laboratory and then injected into the patient’s bloodstream. Despite very promising results, this treatment is limited by cells spreading all over the body, which limits their efficacy and creates unwanted side effects.

Sophie Lerouge, a Professor and Researcher in the Mechanical Engineering Department at ÉTS since 2007, and Réjean Lapointe, a Researcher at CRCHUM, have recently developed a biocompatible injectable gel that allows for TILs to be injected and grow close to cancerous tumors in order to concentrate the immunotherapy treatment. This is a very promising development.

One of the characteristics of this new biogel is that it remains in liquid state at room temperature, and gels at 37 oC. As a liquid, it is easily mixed with the cells and injected close to the tumor. Once inside the body, it quickly transforms into a macroporous gel that allows the “encapsulated” cells to survive and multiply rapidly before being released to attack the adjacent tumor.

It is no longer necessary to cultivate billions of cells in the laboratory, because only hundreds of millions are now required, since they are delivered directly to the targeted area. After achieving very promising results in vitro, the biogel is now being tested in animals.

The potential for chitosan-based hydrogels is enormous, and expands the limits of immunotherapy treatments for cancer. Professor Lerouge’s team is studying the possibility of using it for other cell therapies or to regenerate tissue, including intervertebral discs.

Professor Lerouge has held the Canada Research Chair in Biomaterials and Endovascular Implants since 2008, and is Director of the Laboratoire de biomateriaux endovasculaires (LBeV – endovascular biomaterials laboratory) at CRCHUM, a member of the Imaging and Orthopedics Laboratory (LIO) at ÉTS and an Associate Professor in the Radiology, Radio-Oncology and Nuclear Medicine Department at Université de Montréal.

Focusing on clinical needs
Professor Lerouge has always dreamed of applying her engineering expertise to the field of medicine in order to improve the health of the population. She is committed to ensuring that her research responds to concrete clinical needs, and that the discoveries that result from the multidisciplinary projects conducted in collaboration with other researchers actually end up helping patients

See also :
Canada Research Chair in Biomaterials and Endovascular Implants
Pour information
Sébastien Langevin
Communication Officer - ÉTS
514 396-8427

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