According to a recent article in SciTech, researchers at Yale and Johns Hopkins have developed a new treatment that has shown promise in animal studies for eliminating glioblastoma multiforme tumors, the most deadly of brain cancers.
According to the National Brain Tumor Society, this form of brain cancer originates in glial tissue that supports and protects human nerve cells. It tends to spread throughout the brain relatively quickly. The mean survival rate is in the range of about 15 months. Roughly 4 percent of people with this time of cancer survive as long as five years. Roughly 15,000 Americans a year are diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme brain cancers. It is more common in older men. The exact cause is as yet unknown, but some research is indicating some form of genetic mutation.
Conventional cancer treatments have proven to be relatively ineffective. Oral and intravenous drugs run into the protective blood/brain barrier. Drugs released directly into the brain often do not reach the tumors and besides have not been able to kill the tumor cells that allow for regrowth. Surgery and radiation can extend a patient's lifespan by a few months, but only staves off the inevitable. Occasionally this kind of tumor is considered inoperative, leaving radiation and chemotherapy the only options for treatment.
The Yale and Johns Hopkins researchers have developed a way to deliver tumor killing drugs with a nano particle made of a polymer. The nano particle is able to navigate through the brain to the tumor and release drugs gradually, resulting in sustained treatment. The researchers have also found that an already approved drug, a fungicide called dithiazanine iodide (DI), has been effective in killing the most aggressive tumors with few if any side effects.
Experiments on rats showed that the new therapy increased the animal's survival time from 180 days with conventional treatment to 280 days. Experiments with pigs showed that the treatment was effective in large animals.
The researchers are preparing to make a request for government approval for human trials.