Scientists breach blood-brain barrier for first time to deliver chemotherapy
Scientists at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre have developed a method to more effectively deliver chemotherapy to brain tumors by non-invasively permeating the blood-brain barrier.
That barrier has been likened to a 'Saran Wrap'—it coats the brain's blood vessels and protects one of our most vital organs from toxic substances.
But its protective ability has proven a challenge for cancer treatments.
Dr. Todd Mainprize, principal investigator of the study, said, "The blood-brain barrier has been a persistent obstacle to delivering valuable therapies to treat disease such as tumors. We are encouraged that we were able to temporarily open this barrier in a patient to deliver chemotherapy directly to the brain tumor."
The new process works by delivering a combination of microscopic bubbles and chemotherapy drugs into the bloodstream. The bubbles travel safely through the circulatory system and are guided by MRItoward blood vessels near the blood-brain barrier—and targeted tumor.
Once in place, low-frequency ultrasound constantly contracts and expands the bubbles. This causes them to vibrate, which loosens the cells of the blood-brain barrier and creates an opening so the drugs can travel where needed.
The first successful human trial was recently performed.
Afterwards, part of the tumor and adjacent tissue were removed to determine the amount of chemotherapy that was able to penetrate the area.
Researchers say the procedure could benefit not only cancer patients, but also those with Alzheimer's and certain psychiatric issues.