U.S. Markets closed

The future of ovarian cancer treatment might be found in origami

(Photo: Getty Images)

Katerina Mantzavinou is looking to revolutionize cancer treatment, one origami shape at a time.

The PhD student at the Harvard—MIT Program of Health Sciences and Technology made her debut in a video on medical news site STAT this month, discussing how the ancient art of paper folding inspired the design of a new drug delivery structure — one that could transform treatment for ovarian cancer.

The story dates back to the spring of 2013, when Mantzavinou joined a team of researchers at the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research who were working on finding alternate treatment methods for ovarian cancer. Traditionally, patients with ovarian cancer — specifically those for whom the cancer has spread — receive chemotherapy treatment through an indwelling (inside the body) catheter. This can prove incredibly painful and difficult to sustain over the long term.

This particular team wanted to figure out a better way to deliver these important drugs. Their idea was to surgically implant something, using laparoscopic surgery, that could carry the drugs. They key question the team asked themselves was this: How can we create something small enough to be implanted through a trocar (a surgical device used in laparoscopic surgery) but big enough to distribute chemotherapy drugs to a large surface area in the abdomen?

When Mantzavinou arrived, the team was rallying around the idea of using a long, thin device as their means of drug distribution. “Their vision was tubular — like a spaghetti straw,” she says of the initial structure. “But we knew from the get-go that there would be limitations there.” Among the concerns with a spaghetti-like implant was that it would get tangled in the abdomen, possibly wrapping around one of the patient’s organs.

As Mantzavinou brainstormed a better design, she remembered her undergraduate thesis in engineering from Harvard. For that assignment, she was tasked with creating a patch to cover a hole in a baby’s diaphragm that would grow with the baby. “We had tried to use origami as a way to slowly unfold tissue,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “So I did a lot of work on origami there.”

In that instance, Mantzavinou had used origami to cover something small that would eventually grow larger. This time, she was looking for the opposite effect. “We were trying to combat the tiny diameter [of the incision],” Mantzavinou tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “The idea is that it will expand into bigger dimensions than what the incision would allow. It will become something bigger inside the body.”

Mantzavinou decided to test her origami theory, so she went to local arts and craft store, scooped up a bunch of paper, and started folding. Mantzavinou says the origami was never meant to be implanted in the body. Instead it’s a “proof of concept” — an object that, through repetitive folds, is dramatically reduced in size.

Based on this repetitive fold pattern, she created a mold through a 3D printer. This mold can then be filled with silicone (similar to the type used in breast implants) to make the final product: a biocompatible structure that can fit through a trocar, then expand once in the body, delivering drugs to the places where the cancer has spread.

Since some of Mantzavinou’s plan is, as she refers to it, “ongoing science,” there are certain details that can’t be shared. It’s unclear exactly what shape, for example, the structure would take inside the body, or how long it would stay there. But given how hard her team is working, it seems likely that those answers are on their way. At the moment, the deployable structure is being tested in mice — where it is already showing promising results.

“It’s a really complex puzzle,” Mantzavinou tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “These kinds of technologies have a lot of moving parts. [Chemotherapy] is a toxic drug, and it’s extremely unsafe if something goes wrong, so there’s a lot that has to be done to make sure that things are working the way we want them to.”

Despite what her idea may suggest, Mantzavinou never got into origami as a hobby. “I might have built one crane before,” she says. A native of Athens, Greece, she moved to the U.S. for college a decade ago and has been here ever since. Now she’s working around the clock to help save lives.

Although the origami-inspired structure isn’t yet ready for use in humans, the idea alone could inspire hope in the 22,000 women diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year. As the deadliest of the gynecological cancers, ovarian cancer is notoriously difficult to catch early. When doctors locate it before it has spread past the ovaries, the five-year survival rate is 92 percent. But unfortunately, this only happens 20 percent of the time.

For most women, a diagnosis of ovarian cancer comes with the news that it has already spread — and that it is essential to quickly start the delivery of chemotherapy through a catheter. It’s the discomfort that comes with this treatment option that Mantzavinou is hoping to bypass. “The fundamental idea for the project was moving away from giving the patient bursts of chemotherapy once every two weeks in their belly,” she says. “Instead, we would put in an implant that does this over time, at a lower dose.”

If successful in treating ovarian cancer, Mantzavinou’s origami model could have far-reaching effects. “Drug delivery in that place in the body could be very promising,” Mantzavinou tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “It has implications for all kinds [of diseases]— GI cancer, lung cancers, other gynecological cancers, and even things that are noncancerous. So this is very much thinking about the future. There’s a lot of promise.”

Read more from Yahoo Lifestyle:

Follow us on InstagramFacebook, and Twitter for nonstop inspiration delivered fresh to your feed, every day.

  • Why Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. Stock Closed 11% Lower on Friday
    Motley Fool

    Why Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. Stock Closed 11% Lower on Friday

    Analyst Pierre Ferragu from financial firm New Street Research set his price target for AMD at $18 per share, arguing that the stock has been priced for a level of success that simply isn't realistic. "AMD's stock price reflects a scenario we don't believe possible," Ferragu wrote. In particular, Ferragu sees larger rival Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) getting its manufacturing act together as we speak.

  • Finance

    Apple isn’t the only company raking in billions from the new iPhones

    Possibly the best example of this can be found in Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), now the primary supplier of Apple’s mobile chips. Looking at the company’s revenue over the past 13 years, newer chips that can pack more transistors into the same amount of space for use in smartphones have cannibalized the chipmaker’s revenue. Chips larger than 0.11 micrometers, which used to be the company’s sole source of revenue, now counts for less than 25%.

  • This Refining Giant Is the Latest Energy Company to Give Up on Its MLP
    Motley Fool

    This Refining Giant Is the Latest Energy Company to Give Up on Its MLP

    The energy sector continues to experience a gigantic consolidation wave, which is causing master limited partnerships (MLPs) to drop like flies. Valero Energy (NYSE: VLO) is behind the latest disappearing act in the space after it agreed to buy out its MLP Valero Energy Partners (NYSE: VLP). Valero Energy launched Valero Energy Partners in late 2013, joining its refining rivals in creating an income-producing vehicle that would steadily buy its parent's midstream assets.

  • Cleveland-Cliffs Has Strong Q3 2018, Reinitiates Dividend
    Market Realist

    Cleveland-Cliffs Has Strong Q3 2018, Reinitiates Dividend

    Cleveland-Cliffs (CLF) released its third-quarter earnings today before the markets opened. Its revenue came in at $741.8 million, which was 24.3% higher YoY (year-over-year), beating analysts’ estimate of $732 million according to the consensus compiled by Thomson Reuters. In its second-quarter results, it beat the consensus estimate.

  • Finance

    Buy Disney on Streaming Service that Will Rival Netflix: Barclays

    Shares of Disney have outperformed the broader market this year, up 10.2% year-to-date (YTD) compared to the S&P 500's 4.2% return. Venkateshwar upgraded Disney stock to overweight from equal weight, attributing his more upbeat forecast to the company's new over-the-top media service, slated for release in 2019.

  • Marijuana investors may lose 90% of their money in Canada, so consider the really big prize elsewhere

    Marijuana investors may lose 90% of their money in Canada, so consider the really big prize elsewhere

    Marijuana presents a tremendous opportunity for investors over the next few years. Naïve investors are excited. The reality is that professionals will pick their pockets, and many naïve investors who are excited now will end up losing 90% of their investment.

  • MBS Says the Saudi Consulate in Turkey Is 'Sovereign Territory.' He's Wrong.

    MBS Says the Saudi Consulate in Turkey Is 'Sovereign Territory.' He's Wrong.

    As speculation grew about the fate of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who vanished after entering his nation’s consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, the Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman was quick to dispel rumors he had been murdered. “We have nothing to hide,” the de-facto Saudi leader, known by his initials MBS, said three days later. On one thing at least, the Crown Prince was mistaken — consulates and embassies are not, in fact, sovereign territory under international law.

  • What happens if you win Mega Millions' $970M jackpot?
    Associated Press

    What happens if you win Mega Millions' $970M jackpot?

    Despite the terrible odds — one in 302.5 million for those keeping score at home — someone will eventually match all six numbers and win the Mega Millions jackpot, which now stands at $970 million. Here are some answers for someone holding that prized lottery ticket for what would be the second-largest lottery jackpot in U.S. history. Lottery officials recommend winners take a deep breath, put their winning ticket in a safe spot and consult with a reputable financial planner before popping over to the lottery headquarters.

  • Business

    Jim Cramer Shares His Thoughts On Amarin, AT&T, McDonald's And More

    On CNBC's "Mad Money Lightning Round", Jim Cramer said Arrowhead Pharmaceuticals Inc (NASDAQ: ARWR) is a great speculative stock. Cramer is willing to endorse AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), but he thinks Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) offers more safety

  • Hillary Clinton under fire over Lewinsky comment
    Fox Business Videos

    Hillary Clinton under fire over Lewinsky comment

    Madison Gesiotto, National Diversity Coalition for Trump, and Democratic strategist Al Mottur on how former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said that her husband’s affair with Monica Lewinsky was not an abuse of power.

  • Here’s why you shouldn’t retire super early — even if you can

    Here’s why you shouldn’t retire super early — even if you can

    Despite the many perks of early retirement — waking up whenever you want, for example — it wasn’t the easiest decision. Earnings tend to peak around 48 for men and about 39 for women, according to an analysis by PayScale.

  • Miami swimwear company sues Sears, Lampert for fraud
    American City Business Journals

    Miami swimwear company sues Sears, Lampert for fraud

    A Miami swimwear company this week sued Sears Holdings Corp., Sears CEO Eddie Lampert, and Lampert's ESL Investments hedge fund for fraud in Cook County, Illinois. InGear Fashions is suing for $840,000, claiming in its Circuit Court of Cook County lawsuit that Sears, Lampert and ESL engaged in fraud by not paying the company for its swimwear, which it's been supplying to Sears for the past six years.

  • Don't Be Fooled -- Intuitive Surgical Had Another Huge Quarter
    Motley Fool

    Don't Be Fooled -- Intuitive Surgical Had Another Huge Quarter

    One look at the headline numbers might have had Intuitive Surgical (NASDAQ: ISRG) investors worried. Revenue grew a modest 14%, but earnings were only up 2%? This is, after all, a company that trades for over 50 times earnings.  But worry not. The devil

  • Home Depot vs. Lowe’s: Both Stocks Are Slumping, So Which One Should You Buy?

    Home Depot vs. Lowe’s: Both Stocks Are Slumping, So Which One Should You Buy?

    An analyst downgrade based on housing market outlooks has sent stocks from Lowe’s and Home Depot down over the last two days. Both Home Depot and Lowe’s are in downtrends dating back to September. On Wednesday, shares in Lowe’s and The Home Depot were slumping after disappointing housing market data led a key analyst to downgrade his ratings and slash price targets, and both stocks continued the slump into a second day on Thursday.

  • Is CenturyLink, Inc. a Buy?
    Motley Fool

    Is CenturyLink, Inc. a Buy?

    Legacy landline telecom CenturyLink, Inc. (NYSE: CTL) gets plenty of grief. And understandably so, considering that its legacy business, copper wire landline and internet connections is a steadily declining business while fiber and wireless technologies

  • Goldman Sachs Adds Nvidia To 'Conviction Buy' List
    Yahoo Finance Video

    Goldman Sachs Adds Nvidia To 'Conviction Buy' List

    Goldman Sachs analyst Toshiya Hari reiterated his 'Buy' rating for Nvidia and added the chip-maker to Goldman’s 'Conviction Buy' list.

  • Valero to fold logistics arm back into parent company in $950 million deal
    American City Business Journals

    Valero to fold logistics arm back into parent company in $950 million deal

    Less than five years after it was created as a master limited partnership, San Antonio-based pipeline and storage terminal company Valero Energy Partners LP is merging back with its parent company.  Valero Energy Partners (NYSE: VLP) announced after close of market on Thursday that it is merging with Valero Energy Corp. (NYSE: VLO), its general partner Valero Energy Partners GP LLC and Forest Merger Sub LLC, a subsidiary that was incorporated in Delaware as a merge vehicle by Valero on Tuesday. Under a merger agreement filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Valero will buy all outstanding shares of VLP stock at $42.25 per share in a transaction that is expected to be worth $950 million.

  • Palo Alto Networks Stock Upgraded: What You Need to Know
    Motley Fool

    Palo Alto Networks Stock Upgraded: What You Need to Know

    Cybersecurity company Palo Alto Networks (NYSE: PANW) won a big upgrade today when analysts at R.W. Baird announced they're assuming coverage of the stock and raising their price target to $250 a share. If they're right about that, Palo Alto Networks is worth more than 23% more than it currently costs. Many companies offer cybersecurity services, but which one is the best to invest in?

  • VF Corporation Reports Robust Q2 2019 Numbers
    Market Realist

    VF Corporation Reports Robust Q2 2019 Numbers

    VF Corporation (VFC) reported better-than-expected top and bottom line numbers for the second quarter of fiscal 2019, which ended on September 30. VF Corporation delivered revenue of $3.90 billion in the second quarter of fiscal 2019, reflecting YoY (year-over-year) growth of 15.0% and beating analysts’ consensus estimate by 1.1%. Acquisitions and the strengthening of its international and D2C (direct-to-customer) operations, along with brands such as Vans and North Face, drove the company’s top line growth.

  • Suddenly Toxic, Saudi Prince Is Shunned by Investors He Courted

    Suddenly Toxic, Saudi Prince Is Shunned by Investors He Courted

    Now Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman could become the biggest risk to his own project. Everything changed when Jamal Khashoggi walked into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 and didn’t come out. Prince Mohammed, who’s denied any knowledge of Khashoggi’s fate, still has his defenders -– notably Donald Trump.

  • Finance

    12 Stocks May Plunge as Investors 'Harvest' Tax Losses

    The fourth quarter began with a big stock market selloff, and many investors may be taking a close look at once-loved stocks in their portfolios that have disappointed with significant price declines this year. "Tax loss selling becomes a possible source

  • Business
    Motley Fool

    Why IBM’s Brief Growth Streak Just Stalled

    Unfortunately for its shareholders, there was a speed bump on the road to rebound last quarter: The company reported this week that revenue shrank, and growth in its vital "strategic imperatives" businesses slowed. Seriously, when IBM's legacy mainframe business is the strongest performer in a given quarter, one has to see that as a problem.

  • Frustrated GM investors ask what more CEO Barra can do

    Frustrated GM investors ask what more CEO Barra can do

    General Motors Co (GM.N) Chief Executive Mary Barra has transformed the No. 1 U.S. automaker in her almost five years in charge, but that is still not enough to satisfy investors. Ahead of third-quarter results due on Oct. 31, GM shares are trading about 6 percent below the $33 per share price at which they launched in 2010 in a post-bankruptcy initial public offering. The Detroit carmaker's stock is down 22 percent since Barra took over in January 2014.

  • Now is a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ chance to invest in US pot companies, investor says
    Yahoo Finance

    Now is a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ chance to invest in US pot companies, investor says

    With some Canadian pot stocks posting triple-digit return rates this year, many retail investors have looked north to pour cash into cannabis. U.S. cannabis companies are worth a lot more than their current valuations suggest since federal illegality has put undue pressure on the industry, said David Wenger, a New York attorney and senior editor of the Cannabis Law Digest.

  • Why Is Ford Stock Tanking before Its Q3 2018 Earnings Event?
    Market Realist

    Why Is Ford Stock Tanking before Its Q3 2018 Earnings Event?

    Why Analysts Are Pessimistic about Ford’s Q3 2018 Earnings  Ford’s Q3 2018 earnings Ford Motor Company (F), the second-largest US automaker by 2017 vehicle sales volume, is set to release its third quarter of 2018 earnings report on October 24. But before