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Researchers have made significant progress after discovering a revolutionary way to treat breast cancer when it spreads to the brain.
For the first time in the world, the new system could provide an invasive way to temporarily open the boundaries of the brain, allowing antitumor drugs to target cancer. The brain is protected by a layer of specialized cells called the blood-brain barrier, which allows for essential substances such as oxygen and sugar while expelling toxins. But now, scientists have been able to use advanced ultrasound technology to open the blood-brain barrier temporarily and without invasion to patients with breast cancer that has spread to their brain.
The study included four women with HER2-positive breast cancer that had spread to the brain.
In HER2-positive breast cancers, cancer cells carry a protein (HER2) that causes them to grow. But some drugs, such as trostuzumab (Herceptin), help target this protein.
By temporarily opening the borders of the brain, Herceptin was able to target a patient’s brain tumors.
Using magnetic resonance imaging with the help of ultrasound, the researchers said that if the blood-brain barrier looks like a plastic wrap, the plastic wrap will “break” in some places and the drug will enter the brain.
Researchers said the entrance port was closed within 24 hours. There are indications that this technique increases the dose of the drug reaching the brain tumor.
But according to researchers, the results are preliminary and only a “source of opinion”.
Dr Neer Lipsman, a leading research author and neurosurgeon at the Sunnybrook Health Science Center in Toronto, said: “We are in the early stages of proving that this is possible and safe, but that relatively small amounts of herceptin can penetrate the brain.
Lipsman added that it remains to be seen whether this technique will improve long-term control of brain tumor growth and help extend survival rates.
Many drug combinations, including herceptin, have “activity” against brain tumors in HER2-positive breast cancer patients, said Dr. Charles Shapiro, a professor and oncologist at Icon Medical College in Sinai Mountain, New York.
He said when cancer spreads to the brain, the blood-brain barrier is actually “blurred”.
The results were published in the October 13 issue of the scientific journal Medical Translation.
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