Investigators from the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) and Emory University say that they were able to obtain some promising results in their attempt to develop a method of stopping highly invasive forms of brain cancer from affecting large portions of the brain.
Their research, which was conducted on animals, provides a frame of reference for attempting a similar approach on humans. At this point, people suffering from invasive brain cancer are treated using a combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
However, this approach isn't too effective. Very few patients survive beyond the first two years after diagnostic, despite doctors' best efforts. Their odds are significantly slimmed down by the aggressive spreading patterns brain tumors exhibit.
The cancer spreads to healthy brain tissue in a diffuse manner, making surgical removal a nightmare, and limiting chemotherapy as a treatment option. The drug cocktails are known to affect healthy brain tissue as well, and to produce significant damage.
What the research team did was develop a treatment option that halts the spread of brain cancer, at least in animal models. Specialists used a small vesicle as a delivery system, and loaded it with a molecule called imipramine blue.
They then administered conventional doxorubicin chemotherapy to the test “patients.” It was observed that tumor cells had stopped their invasion, and that the animals who were treated with this two-step approach lived longer, on average, than those that were treated exclusively with chemotherapy.
“Our results show that imipramine blue stops tumor invasion into healthy tissue and enhances the efficacy of chemotherapy, which suggests that chemotherapy may be more effective when the target is stationary,” investigator Ravi Bellamkonda explains.
“These results reveal a new strategy for treating brain cancer that could improve clinical outcomes,” adds the scientist, who holds an appointment as a professor in the Georgia Tech Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering, and also at the Emory University.
“While we need to conduct future studies to determine if the effect of imipramine blue is the same for different types of cancer diagnosed at different stages, this initial study shows the possibility that imipramine blue may be useful as soon as any tumor is diagnosed, before anti-cancer treatment begins, to create a more treatable tumor and enhance clinical outcome,” the expert concludes.