Scientists use long needles to zap brain cancer

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Glioblastoma, the most aggressive and deadly form of brain cancer, affects one in 25,000 Canadians, and only six percent of those with cancer currently survive longer than five years after diagnosis.

In a study from the University of Saskatchewan, scientists found have developed a new method of killing brain cancer cells while preserving the delicate tissue around it.

The technique also has a remarkable side-benefit: making chemotherapy treatment of brain cancer suddenly possible.

The technique involves placing long needles through the skull and sending pulses of electrical current into a glioblastoma tumor.

The team says patients with brain tumors may now have another option for local treatment that does not involve opening the skull, and does not involve heat or radiation.

In the study, the team created 3D models of cells to test which treatment protocols of electrical current—called irreversible electroporation (IRE or NanoKnife) and high-frequency irreversible electroporation (H-FIRE)—can destroy glioblastoma cells while minimizing the risk to surrounding tissues and blood vessels.

The technique relies on how glioblastoma cells respond to the electrical current. The researchers discovered tumor cells can be killed with a smaller electrical field than would kill surrounding healthy tissues.

They also discovered that this technique temporarily disrupts the blood-brain-barrier—the semi-permeable membrane that allows only tiny molecules to pass from the blood into the brain.

The team says the blood-brain barrier prevents many treatment drugs from getting to the tumor.

The new technique can also help to open this barrier, so the brain is better able to receive other treatments—like chemotherapy or drugs that help increase the immune response—and help the patient fight the tumor in a systematic manner.

If you care about brain health, please read studies about how the Mediterranean diet could protect your brain health, and Vitamin B supplements could help reduce dementia risk.

For more information about brain health, please see recent studies that high-fiber diet could help lower the dementia risk, and these antioxidants could help reduce dementia risk.

The study was conducted by Dr. Mike Moser et al and published in the Journal of Biomechanical Engineering.

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