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Using ultrasound to tackle brain tumors

By Tim Sandle     22 hours ago in Science
To help tackle brain tumors, researchers have designed an ultrasound implant that allows more chemotherapy meds to reach the cancerous site. This could lead to a breakthrough in tackling aggressive types of brain cancer.

Brain cancer is difficult to treat. One of the hindering factors is that when chemotherapy drugs are used, only a small proportion (around 15 percent of the drug active) reaches the tumor site. This is due to the complex network of capillaries and blood vessels that are designed to prevent toxins from entering the brain. While this mechanism keeps the brain safe from noxious substances it also hinders necessary medications from reaching the cancerous site.

French scientists have overcome, Scientific American reports, this through the use of ultrasound and a specially designed implant. The implant temporarily make the blood-brain barrier permeable, allowing most of the chemotherapy drug to progress.

The implant has been successfully tested out in a trial involving 15 patients. The patients had glioblastoma, which is the most common and most aggressive cancer that begins within the brain. Treatment involves surgery after which chemotherapy and radiation therapy is used. It is with improving the success of chemotherapy that the new research has focused on.

News of the device has gathered considerable interest among the medical community on Twitter.

With the device, a surgeon is required to implant the small SonoCloud once a tumor has been removed. Following this, a chemical is injected as part of the chemotherpay treatment in to the bloodstream of the patient. The device is then switched on an ultrasound beam is produced, for a short duration. This sound-wave excites microbubbles within the chemotherapeutic drug. The vibrating bubbles allow greater volumes of the medicine to reach the brain tumor.

The following video provides further details:

Despite the success, further research is required in order to show that the device is safe and that the opening of the blood-brain barrier does not present a risk of infection to the patient.

The research is published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, in an article titled “Clinical trial of blood-brain barrier disruption by pulsed ultrasound,”

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