Say that five times fast.
I recently read an article from Sunnybrook Research Institute, located in Toronto ON, describing a HUGE medical breakthrough they have uncovered in their studies.
For the first time ever, scientists have succeeded in non-invasively breaking through the blood-brain barrier that protects the brain, managing to deliver chemotherapy medication directly into the malignant brain tumour of a patient. The blood-brain barrier has been a persistent obstacle to delivering valuable therapies to treat disease such as tumours.
While the blood-brain barrier is designed to protect our brains – lining the brain’s blood vessels to prevent toxic substances in the bloodstream from getting through – it’s also served as somewhat of a brick wall for modern medicine. In this instance, however, scientists were able to non-invasively breach the blood-brain barrier, using tightly focused ultrasound to effectively part the brain’s protective curtain. The advancement could lead to a host of new treatments for illnesses and disorders centred in the brain.
In order to get medication directly to the site of the patient’s malignant brain tumour, the scientists needed a way of getting past the blood-brain barrier. To do so, they infused her bloodstream with a chemotherapy drug and also with tiny, microscopic bubbles, which are smaller than red blood cells and can pass freely through blood.
Some of the most exciting and novel therapeutics for the treatment of malignant brain tumours are not able to reach the tumour cells because of the blood-brain barrier. This technique will offer new opportunities to deliver (potentially) much more effective treatments to the targeted areas.
An MRI is used to penetrate the cells of the barrier- a complex technique I don’t fully understand and is not necessarily pertinent to comprehending the big picture of this accomplishment. After the ultrasound treatment succeeded in breaching the blood-brain barrier, the tumour was surgically removed, and the scientists are using pathology to measure the differences between the concentration of chemotherapy in the regions targeted by sound waves and those in areas where the blood-brain barrier was not breached.
The answers they get from pathology will tell them how just how effective breaking the barrier is in terms of delivering medications – but in any case it’s early days. Nine more participants with tumours have been scheduled to take part in the study and will receive the ultrasound treatment prior to invasive surgery to remove their tumours.
If the results are as successful as the first procedure appears to have been, we could be witnessing a revolution of sorts in how to get much-needed drugs directly to where they can benefit the brain.
This literal breakthrough is the result of close to two decades’ research by researchers at Sunnybrook Research Institute and could pave the way for addressing a variety of brain diseases, not just cancer, but also Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, psychiatric conditions, and more.
You probably can’t say it five times fast, but you can definitely comprehend what a substantial step this is in modern medicine. Hopefully there is more to come!