Brain tumour: Cancer Research UK on 'different types' in 2017
Scientists believe they could have found an “exciting” new cure for brain tumours. A “hydrogel” developed by a team in the US could be used to supplement existing treatments for brain cancer in the future. It is thought the gel will offer hope to patients diagnosed with glioblastoma, one of the deadliest and most common brain tumours in humans.
In a study, side effects quetiapine fumarate published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, the gel was shown to cure 100 percent of mice subjects with an aggressive form of brain cancer.
Study leader Professor Honggang Cui, of Johns Hopkins University in the US, said in a university release: “Despite recent technological advancements, there is a dire need for new treatment strategies.
“We think this hydrogel will be the future and will supplement current treatments for brain cancer.”
Prof Cui’s team mixed an anti-cancer drug and an antibody in a solution that self-assembles into a gel to fill the tiny grooves left after a brain tumour is surgically removed.
He said the gel can reach areas that surgery might miss and current drugs struggle to reach to kill lingering cancer cells and suppress tumour growth.
Prof Cui said the gel also seems to trigger an immune response that a mouse’s body struggles to activate on its own when fighting glioblastoma.
When the researchers rechallenged surviving mice with a new glioblastoma tumour, their immune systems alone beat the cancer without additional medication.
According to Prof Cui, the gel appeared to not only fend off cancer, but also helps rewire the immune system to discourage recurrence with immunological memory.
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However, he said surgery is essential for the approach to work as applying the gel directly in the brain without surgical removal of the tumour resulted in only a 50 percent survival rate.
“The surgery likely alleviates some of that pressure and allows more time for the gel to activate the immune system to fight the cancer cells,” he explained.
The gel solution consists of nano-sized filaments made with paclitaxel, an approved drug for breast, lung, and other cancers.
The filaments provide a vehicle to deliver an antibody called aCD47.
Blanketing the tumour cavity evenly, the gel then releases medication steadily over several weeks, and its active ingredients remain close to the site of injection.
By using that specific antibody, the team is trying to overcome one of the toughest hurdles in glioblastoma research.
It targets macrophages, a type of cell that sometimes supports immunity, but other times protects cancer cells – allowing aggressive tumour growth.
Study co-author Prof Betty Tyler said the results achieved with the new gel are some of the most impressive the research team has seen,
“We don’t usually see 100 percent survival in mouse models of this disease,” she said.
“Thinking that there is potential for this new hydrogel combination to change that survival curve for glioblastoma patients is very exciting.”
She added: “This hydrogel combines both chemotherapy and immunotherapy intracranially.”
It is planned the gel will now be tested in clinical trials.
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