Surface-fill hydrogel attenuates the oncogenic signature of complex anatomical surface cancer in a single application

Nat Nanotechnol. 2021 Nov;16(11):1251-1259. doi: 10.1038/s41565-021-00961-w. Epub 2021 Sep 23.


Tumours growing in a sheet-like manner on the surface of organs and tissues with complex topologies represent a difficult-to-treat clinical scenario. Their complete surgical resection is difficult due to the complicated anatomy of the diseased tissue. Residual cancer often responds poorly to systemic therapy and locoregional treatment is hindered by the limited accessibility to microscopic tumour foci. Here we engineered a peptide-based surface-fill hydrogel (SFH) that can be syringe- or spray-delivered to surface cancers during surgery or used as a primary therapy. Once applied, SFH can shape change in response to alterations in tissue morphology that may occur during surgery. Implanted SFH releases nanoparticles composed of microRNA and intrinsically disordered peptides that enter cancer cells attenuating their oncogenic signature. With a single application, SFH shows efficacy in four preclinical models of mesothelioma, demonstrating the therapeutic impact of the local application of tumour-specific microRNA, which might change the treatment paradigm for mesothelioma and possibly other surface cancers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Hydrogels / chemistry
  • Hydrogels / therapeutic use*
  • MicroRNAs / genetics
  • MicroRNAs / therapeutic use
  • Nanoparticles / chemistry
  • Nanoparticles / therapeutic use*
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neoplasms / surgery
  • Peptides / genetics*
  • Peptides / therapeutic use
  • Surface Properties / drug effects


  • Hydrogels
  • MicroRNAs
  • Peptides