The layer of tightly packed cells that surround the blood vessels in the brain mean that very little of treatment drugs can be administered directly to brain tumours.
After surgery, only about 25% of drugs are able to reach the brain, Dr Todd Mainprize, lead neurosurgeon on the study, told Canadian news and overcoming this blood-brain barrier continues to be a significant milestone for neuroscientists.
The new technique administers chemotherapy drugs into the bloodstream followed by harmless gas microbubbles. Then a targeted, high-intensity beam of ultrasound is applied to the tumour causing the microbubbles to vibrate and tear the proteins in the capillary walls. This allows the drugs into the specific area of the brain with the capillaries healing shortly afterwards.
Dr Mainprize’s team at Sunnybrook Health Services Centre in Toronto, Canada, treated Bonny Hall, their first patient, with the new technique last week.
“Our ability to treat this type of tumour, glioma, is not so good,” Dr Mainprize told CTV News. “Between 1940 and 2005, there has been very little progress in improving the outcome of these patients.”
“It’s very targeted, it seems to be extremely safe, it doesn’t cause any damage and it’s transient; after about 12 hours, the coating around the blood vessels re-heals and the blood-brain barrier remains intact.”
Dr Mainprize’s team plan to treat nine other patients with the same technique, with his team hoping that it will “revolutionise the way we treat brain disease completely. It would be a game-changer.”