Porous silicon microparticles as an embolic agent for the treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma
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Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the third most common cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide, accounting for over 600,000 deaths per year. The most common treatment strategy for intermediate and advanced stage unresectable HCC is transarterial chemoembolization (TACE), which involves the local administration of a chemotherapeutic drug combined with arterial occlusion resulting in ischemic tumor necrosis. However, TACE suffers from inadvertent exposure of noncancerous liver parenchyma to embolic agents resulting in liver injury. In some cases, over-embolization has lead to infection, necrosis of unaffected liver tissue, and even liver failure which suggests the need for a biocompatible, multifunctional embolic material which can deliver anticancer drugs with high target specificity. Our laboratory has recently developed a method to fabricate porous silicon (pSi) microparticles with defined physicochemical properties based on photolithography and anodic etching. These microparticles function as multistage drug delivery systems that can circumvent the biobarriers present in the systemic circulation enabling site-specific localization and release of chemotherapy and imaging agents. The versatility of the fabrication process enables the realization of microparticles ranging in size from 600nm to 116[mu]m in diameter with varying shapes, including discoidal, cylindrical and hemispherical, and varying porosity with pore sizes ranging from 6nm to greater than 50nm in diameter. Nanoparticles, such as quantum dots, siRNA-loaded nanoliposomes, gadolinium-based contrast agents, gold and iron oxide nanoparticles, are loaded in pSi microparticles by tailoring their pore sizes and surface chemistries. This thesis presents preliminary results on the applicability of biocompatible, engineered pSi microparticles as an embolic agent for HCC chemoembolization therapy. Hemispherical microparticles with 116[mu]m diameter were successfully fabricated and suspended in phosphate buffered saline (PBS). A microvascular construct was rapid prototyped in polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) as an in vitro experimental platform to study the embolization behavior of pSi microparticles. Oxidized pSi microparticles were introduced into the microfluidic device at an appropriate flow rate and time-lapse images were taken showing the formation of occlusions at the bifurcation within minutes of administration. Furthermore, penetration through the bifurcation was completely hindered suggesting that pSi microparticles can potentially be used as a biocompatible, multifunctional chemoembolization agent. Although these results are promising, further investigations are warranted.