Nano-formulated drugs for brain tumors

Title of the research project

Hyglio – Theranostic Injectable Hydrogel for Glioblastoma

Scientific area 

Cancer Nanomedicine, Drug delivery, Nanotechnology

Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellow 

Clara Mattu


The project Hyglio aims at the design of multi-compartment drug delivery systems, composed of thermo-sensitive hydrogels and nanoparticles, for the intra-cranial drug delivery to brain tumors.

Description of the research project 

Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is the most common primary brain tumor in adults. Due to its infiltrative nature and heterogeneity, this tumor remains mostly incurable with a dismal 5-year survival of 5%.

The difficulty of achieving significant levels of drug accumulation in the brain through systemic circulation represents an additional challenge in GBM treatment.

Hyglio aims at designing nano-formulated drugs, entrapped in a thermo-sensitive polymer network, to be injected directly at the tumor location in the brain.

The results from this research have highlighted the following:

  1. Nanoparticles made of synthetic biomaterials obtained in the “Bioengineering” Lab at POLITO are able to co-encapsulate multiple chemotherapeutics and to deliver them concomitantly to the tumor site. This is important to support combinatorial treatment strategies.
  2. Combinations of nanoparticles and hydrogels are an attractive option in glioblastoma treatment. In vivo results have shown that hydrogels are able to retain treatments longer in the brain, thus extending the therapeutic window.
  3. Intracranial drug release with nanoparticles and hydrogels significantly extends survival of animal models of intra-cranial glioblastoma.

This activity has been performed during a 2-year secondment in the Department of Nanomedicine of the Houston Methodist Research Institute.

Impact on society and on fellow career 

Hyglio project contributes to the design of more efficient drug delivery systems to fight brain cancers.

The research experience in a well-established international laboratory has provided the researcher with a set of new skills, such as those relative to in vitro and in vivo characterizations, and an invaluable network of connections for future grant and joint projects applications.

Short CV of Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellow 

Clara Mattu holds a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from Politecnico di Torino. Her research interests include cancer nanomedicine, drug delivery, and nano-formulations. She was awarded the Zegna scholarship in 2016, and the Working Capital PNI grant in 2012. Clara has been visiting scientist in the Departments of Translational Medicine and of Nanomedicine at the Houston Methodist Research Institute, and in the School of Pharmacy at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (Dublin). She has authored 26 publications, 3 book chapters, and 1 patent.


Gianluca Ciardelli, Politecnico di Torino

Mauro Ferrari, Houston Methodist Research Institute

Project Partner Organisations

Houston Methodist Research Institute, Department of Nanomedicine (Houston, TX, USA).

Istituto di Fisiologia Clinica, CNR Pisa

Hyglio project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 658665

  • Budget: 244.270 euro
  • Start date: 1/10/2016
  • End date: 01/09/2019