A new biodegradable gel improves the immune system’s ability to keep cancer at bay after tumors are surgically removed.

The gel, tested in mice, releases drugs and special antibodies that simultaneously deplete immune-blocking cells called macrophages from the surgical site and activate T cells so they can attack cancer.

University of Wisconsin–Madison scientists tested the gel on mouse models of several cancers. They found that the gel effectively kept in check tumors that are known to respond well to this kind of immune therapy, like CT26 colon cancers. But the gel also worked well against B16F10 melanomas, S180 sarcomas and 4T1 triple negative breast cancers, which are less responsive to immune therapy and more prone to metastasizing.

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