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Westminster biotechnology specialist helps develop bra to prevent and treat breast cancer

Biomedical Sciences 9 September 2015

Professor Ipsita Roy, a biotechnology specialist at the University of Westminster, has helped develop the Material Pharmacy bra with designer Sarah Da Costa.

The prototype bra is capable of treating young women prone to developing breast cancer through the use of an embedded bio-polymer skin which delivers the anti-oestrogen drug Tamoxifen through skin contact, rather than through a daily tablet or cream. The bra avoids the usual side effects of the drug when taken orally. Tamoxifen is the best practice drug for prevention and treatment of breast cancer, however according to Da Costa, 40 per cent of women cannot physically tolerate taking the drug orally.

Together with Professor Ipsita Roy, a Reader from the University of Westminster’s Life Sciences Department, Da Costa developed a way for the drug to be delivered and absorbed into the skin via the fabric material. This controlled delivery process involves “micro-encapsulation”.

Da Costa’s drug-dispensing bra allows the drug to be absorbed into the skin through “Foxleaf” inserts which are changed on a monthly basis.

“The Foxleaf is housed in a silk mesh inside the bra allowing diffusion of the drug from the microspheres, but also allowing the bra to be washed normally,” explains Da Costa.

“This was designed for the Typology 18-25 years with the BRCA gene marker, mainly daughters of women with breast cancer,” she says.

Da Costa estimates that this potentially life-saving new model could progress to pre-clinical stages of testing within two to three years.

Research in the Faculty of Science and Technology encompasses a wide range of disciplines from pure to applied science, integrating areas from structural biology, molecular genetics, tissue engineering, biomaterials, applied microbiology and biotechnology through to human performance, Chinese medicine, Public Health Nutrition and Well-being.

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