Researchers at Linköping University, Sweden, and the Medical University of Graz, Austria have developed an electrical pump that can precisely deliver chemotherapeutic drugs into the brain. The technology is conceived as being implantable into brain tumor resection sites to deliver localized chemotherapy over extended periods. It is hoped that this approach can prevent tumor recurrence.
Unfortunately, brain tumor recurrence following surgical resection is all too common. It is difficult to remove all traces of the tumor without causing significant damage to healthy brain tissue, and therefore recurrence is inevitable for many patients. Delivering systemic chemotherapy is limited by its side-effects and by the presence of the blood brain barrier, which will not allow all chemotherapy drugs to pass through it.
At present, preventing recurrence can be attempted by leaving chemotherapy-loaded materials behind in the tumor resection site. Examples include chemotherapy-loaded wafers that break down over time and release the drug into nearby tissue. However, such systems allow only limited control of drug release, and this may result in localized side-effects such as cerebral edema and wound healing issues.
This latest technology aims to provide more controllable drug release for tumor resection sites, and consists of a small implantable pump designed to deliver gemcitabine, an effective chemotherapy drug that cannot pass the blood brain barrier. Excitingly, unlike many chemotherapy drugs, gemcitabine has minimal toxicity in healthy brain cells, meaning that is well suited for use in brain tumors, such as glioblastoma.
“The traditional glioblastoma treatment currently used in the clinics harms both cancer and neuronal cells to the same extent,” said Linda Waldherr, a researcher involved in the study, in a press release. “However, with the gemcitabine ion pump, we tackle only the cancerous cells, while neurons stay healthy. In addition, our experiments on cultured glioblastoma cells show that more cancer cells are killed when we use the ion pump than when we use manual treatment.”
The pump can be described as an organic electronic ion pump. It uses an electrical current to precisely deliver gemcitabine, which is positively charged, through an ion transport channel. Fortunately, the pump requires only a small current, which is advantageous from a safety perspective when delivering therapy in the brain.
So far, the researchers have tested the device with glioblastoma cells in vitro. “This is the first time an ion pump has been tested as a possible method to treat malignant brain tumors,” said Daniel Simon, another researcher involved in the study. “We used cancer cells in the lab, and the results are extremely promising. However, it will probably take five to ten years before we see this new technology used in treatments for brain tumors.”
Study in Advanced Materials Technologies: Targeted Chemotherapy of Glioblastoma Spheroids with an Iontronic Pump
Via: Linköping University