According to The American Cancer Society, nearly 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with some form of breast cancer during their lifetime. As part of their treatments, many of the women will undergo mastectomies to remove cancerous cells and the surrounding healthy tissue in order to prevent the cancer from spreading. 

A 2012 study published in Nanotechnology discusses a new breast implant that researchers at Brown University created specifically for patients recovering from  mastectomies. The new implant is covered with a polymer, or plastic, that deters cancer cells from redeveloping in the breast tissue without any further chemical or radiological treatment. While discouraging cancerous growth, the polymer simultaneously encourages the development of healthy breast cells.

How Do The Implants Discourage Cancerous Growth?

The implants have tiny, microscopic bumps that are 23 nanometers high, made from the polymers covering the surface of the implant. Research is still underway to understand more of the preventive action; however scientists hypothesize that the rigid, inflexible nature of cancer cells allows the bumps to act as a barrier, blocking the harmful cells from attaching to surrounding healthy tissue.

Perhaps this is why Thomas Webster, one of the lead researchers on the program, described the surface as a “bed of nails” for the cancerous cells. Healthy cells, conversely, are much more pliable, and thus have no issues navigating the new surface.

When Will The Implants Be Available?

As of 2012, the implants are not yet ready to be tested in clinical trials, but all of the materials they contain have been previously approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Webster predicts clinical trials with human subjects will begin in five to ten years.