Researchers from Harvard and MIT have developed microparticles that can treat a specific genetic subtype of glioma, a brain cancer. The microparticles slowly release a drug that specifically targets cancer cells that rely on a particular enzyme. During surgery to remove the brain tumor, clinicians can conduct a rapid (30 min) genetic test on a biopsy sample to see if the tumor is suitable for treatment. If so, they can place the microparticles into the resection site to kill cancer cells at the resection boundary and help to prevent tumor recurrence.
Removing an entire brain tumor can be tricky, especially if it is located near an area of the brain responsible for vital tasks, such as movement or speech. Sometimes this means that surgeons cannot remove the whole tumor, and in many cases it can recur. The Boston-based researchers wanted to develop a tumor-specific treatment that surgeons could place at the resection site, which would help to kill any remaining cancer cells.
The team decided to target a subtype of glioma (present in 25% of patients), in which a specific mutation means that the cancer cells are reliant on a particular enzyme. Drugs that can inhibit this enzyme and kill the cancer cells are available, but they have significant side-effects elsewhere in the body, and cannot easily cross the blood-brain barrier to reach the tumor.
To address this, the researchers created a microparticle delivery vehicle that can release the drug directly at the resection site. They used PLGA, a polymer that can release the drug over a sustained period, to make microparticles that can be inserted directly into the brain. By altering the composition of PLGA, the researchers could tune how quickly the drug was released.
So far, the researchers have tested the microparticles in mice, and found that the treatment extended the life of the animals with treatment-susceptible tumors, without any of the harmful side-effects seen if the drug is used systemically. The research team is interested in expanding the system to target other genetic susceptibilities present in gliomas and other brain cancers.
Here’s a video about the project:
Study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: Genotype-targeted local therapy of glioma…