Glioblastoma is a fatal form of brain cancer with limited treatment options and a high mortality rate.
Two separate EU-funded projects, INSTAGLOW led by FluoGuide and OncoViroMRI led by researchers in Israel and Germany, aim to revolutionize the treatment and monitoring of glioblastoma.
Real-time Cancer Visualization
FluoGuide, a Danish biotechnology company, has developed a fluorescent chemical dye that can be injected into patients before surgery to target and illuminate aggressive cancer cells.
The fluorescent dye is activated when the surgeon shines an infrared light on the brain tissue, allowing the surgeon to accurately remove the cancer cells.
The technology relies on a specific enzyme, urokinase-type plasminogen activator receptor (uPAR), which is abundant in aggressive cancer cells.
By attaching a protein-fluorophore tandem to this enzyme, the dye lights up the boundary between healthy tissue and cancerous tissue during surgery, assisting surgeons in more accurate removal.
The dye has been tested on 36 patients in Denmark and Sweden and has shown to be safe. The next phase of the research will include further trials in Europe and the U.S.
While MRI is a common method to “see” brain tumors, it falls short in detecting early changes in a tumor.
Dr. Or Perlman and his team have modified MRI to produce superior images by relying on other molecules instead of water content.
The new MRI technique aims to be used in tandem with oncolytic viruses, which are engineered to destroy cancer cells.
This approach allows medical professionals to map dying cells in the brain and determine the effectiveness of the viral treatment.
The main challenge now is to speed up the imaging process using artificial intelligence. The new imaging technique has been mainly tested in mice, and the next steps include testing on human patients.
Both INSTAGLOW and OncoViroMRI projects have potential applications beyond brain cancer. FluoGuide has successfully tested its dye on 16 lung cancer patients and is also looking at its use for breast and head and neck cancers.
With thousands of people dying from glioblastoma each year, these innovative approaches offer a glimmer of hope.
While both are in varying stages of research and clinical trials, the promising results so far bode well for future treatment options.
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