Progress in the development of new treatments for glioblastoma.

Treatment for glioblastoma may have a higher chance of success. Recent studies by scientists from Austria and Sweden give patients hope for this.

A new technology that will have a significant impact on the treatment success of brain cancer is an ion pump to deliver chemotherapeutic agents to the brain.

Despite surgery and subsequent treatment with chemotherapy and radiation therapy, most patients experience recurrence of malignant brain tumors. Researchers at Linköping University (Sweden) and Graz Medical University (Austria) have shown on cells in test material that an ion pump can deliver medictions more accurately, including less serious side effects from chemotherapy. The research results are published in Advanced Materials Technologies.

Causes of insufficiently successful treatments for brain cancer.

Scientists used glioblastoma cells. Glioblastoma is the most common and most aggressive type of cancer that can occur in the brain. When a brain tumor is surgically removed, small parts of the tumor often remain inside the brain cells. Even high-precision surgery cannot remove these cells without damaging the surrounding healthy brain tissue. This means that radiation therapy and chemotherapy are used to stop the tumor from recurring.

There are about 30 cytostatics available in Sweden for the treatment for various types of cancer. These chemotherapeutic agents are most often given intravenously or in tablet form to patients. But in order to reach the brain, they must first spread through the circulatory system. These agents then have to cross the blood-brain barrier. The walls of small blood vessels in the brain are much less permeable than blood vessels in the rest of the body and can prevent many substances from the blood reaching the brain. Thus, only some of the medications that work against cancer can pass.

Glioblastoma treatment: what the new method is based on.

Glioblastoma treatment: what the new method is based on Scientists at Linköping University and Graz University of Medicine have developed a method that can use an implanted ion pump to bypass the blood-brain barrier and deliver gemcitabine, an extremely effective chemotherapeutic agent that normally cannot pass through the blood directly to the brain with high precision. Gemcitabine is currently used to treat cancer of the pancreas, bladder, and breast, where it works by disrupting cell division in fast-growing tumors. This means that gemcitabine does not affect brain cells, as they usually do.

Predictions of the new technique.

“The traditional treatment for glioblastoma, currently used in clinics, is equally damaging to cancer cells and neuronal cells. However, with the gemcitabine ion pump, we only target cancer cells, while neurons remain healthy. In addition, our experiments with cultured glioblastoma cells show that more cancer cells are killed with the ion pump than with manual treatment” says Linda Waldherr, Research Associate at the Medical University of Graz. She conducted research with specialists from Linkoping University.

When an ion pump has to transport gemcitabine from an electrolyte reservoir to cells or a tumor, a weak current is used to “pump” the positively charged medication through the ion transport channel. The technique is known as electrophoresis. The ion pump requires only a low current to pump gemcitabine. This is advantageous because it avoids the risk of activating brain cells and transmitting unintended nerve signals. Low current and low voltage also mean that therapy technology does not require large power supplies or batteries to operate.

What scientists say about the research results and how they will affect the treatment for glioblastoma.

Rainer Schindl, professor at the Medical University of Graz, describes other advantages of this technique. “The pressure inside the brain is extremely sensitive and to use an ion pump to transport the medication means that the pressure does not change. In addition, the dosage is controlled by an electrical charge that delivers the medication. The chemotherapeutic agent is extremely accurate. The next step will be to use an ion pump to evaluate various chemotherapeutic agents that previously had side effects or cannot cross the blood-brain barrier” he says.

“This is the first time that an ion pump has been tested as a possible treatment for malignant brain tumors. We have used the available cancer cells in the laboratory and the results are very promising. It will probably be five to ten years before we see this new technology being used with the treatment for brain tumors” says Daniel Simon, professor in the Organic Electronics Laboratory at the Faculty of Science and Technology at Linkoping University.