Scientists develop ultrasound implants to help powerful anti-cancer drugs cross blood-brain barriers

A new type of implantable ultrasound device could allow less toxic chemotherapy to cross the blood-brain barrier and destroy deadly tumors, according to a new study by Northwestern University,media reported.

Scientists develop ultrasound implants to help powerful anti-cancer drugs cross blood-brain barriers

The blood-brain barrier is an extremely important protective structure that prevents blood-borne pathogens from infecting our brains. For most people, a strong blood-brain barrier is a good thing, but for those with invasive brain cancer, such as malignant gliomas, it actually hinders clinicians’ efforts to eliminate tumors.

The challenge for scientists is to get cancer-killing drugs through the blood-brain barrier so they can destroy tumors. Some researchers have begun experimenting with techniques to break the blood-brain barrier by temporarily opening the blood-brain barrier using focused ultrasound. Pulsed ultrasound and intravenous microbubbles have been shown to temporarily weaken the blood-brain barrier, but the use of ultrasound-directed penetration into the thick skull has proved to be a challenge.

Another recently developed technique is to surgically implant an ultrasound transmitter into the skull. This allows the ultrasonic waves to be precisely oriented. Researchers have conducted clinical trials to test the safety and efficacy of this particular method in human subjects, especially in the treatment of chemotherapy drugs. Implanted ultrasound technology has been shown to effectively break the blood-brain barrier for hours, allowing intravenously injected chemicals to penetrate the brain.

The new study from Northwestern University provides promising evidence that this implantable ultrasound technique can be used in combination with one of the most effective chemotherapy syllables. The study, published in the journal Clinical Cancer Research, found extensive preclinical findings that a new drug called yew alcohol could be combined with new ultrasound techniques to kill glioblastoma.

Yewalcohol is an effective cancer-killing drug that can be used to treat a wide range of different solid tumor cancers. Unfortunately, because it cannot cross the blood-brain barrier and is highly toxic in the brain, the drug has never been used in glioblastoma. A novel, less toxic formula for yew alcohol, delivered with implanted ultrasound devices, can fivetimes more effective lycopene drugs that reach the brain, according to a new study from Northwestern University.

Early mouse studies have found that the new method significantly extends the life span of animals with brain tumors, and laboratory studies of tumor cells have found that the drug concentration required to kill cancer is 1/1400 of the current drug concentration required for conventional chemotherapy. This means that the new method can target and eliminate brain cancer more effectively, while also using lower concentrations of drugs with toxic side effects.

The Northwestern research team is currently applying to the FDA for a human clinical trial to test the new method in a group of patients. They hope such tests, as well as other ones already under way, will prove the efficacy of the implanted ultrasound technology. If successful, new clinical treatments for one of the deadliest cancers could be available within a few years.

The new study is published in the journal Clinical Cancer Research.

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