NRL News

Canadian doctors have developed a new technique for treating brain tumors

by | Nov 11, 2015

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

brainscan4reOne of the more devastating diagnosis is to be told that you have a brain tumor. Brittany Maynard died by physician-assisted suicide last year to avoid living with a brain tumor. California legalized assisted suicide in large part in response to the campaign which used Brittany Maynard as its poster child.

But society needs to care for people, not kill them. And everyday improvements in medical technology are providing new ways to treat devastating illnesses, such as brain tumors and Parkinson’s.

Researchers at Toronto’s Sunnybrook hospital have developed a new technique for treating brain tumors, the Globe and Mail reports.

The difficulty with treating brain tumors has been that the brain has a built-in defense mechanism that naturally protects the brain but also makes it difficult to effectively target brain tumors for treatment. As the Globe and Mail reporter:

The hospital said it made history last week by using a “focused ultrasound” to breach the blood-barrier in the brain to treat patients.

“The blood-brain barrier (BBB) has been a persistent obstacle to delivering valuable therapies to treat disease such as tumours,” says Dr. Todd Mainprize, principal investigator of the study and neurosurgeon in the Hurvitz Brain Sciences Program at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in a media release.

“We are encouraged that we were able to temporarily open this barrier in a patient to deliver chemotherapy directly to the brain tumour.”

The chemotherapy treatment begins with the patient being given injections of micro-bubbles or microscopic bits of air which circulate in the bloodstream.

Researchers said they then use a state-of-the-art MRI-guided focused low-intensity ultrasound (sound waves) to target blood vessels in the BBB area near the tumour.

This causes micro-bubbles to shake and temporarily rip holes in the BBB allowing medication to seep into the tumour.

This new treatment technique creates new hope for people with brain tumours and also for people who are living with Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. According to the Globe and Mail:

Scientists said the trial will include six to ten more patients over the coming months to make sure opening the BBB is safe to penetrate.

The hope is that the new treatment will help patients suffering from brain cancer, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

“Breaching this barrier opens up a new frontier in treating brain disorders,” says Dr. Neal Kassell, chairman of the Focused Ultrasound Foundation.

“We are encouraged by the momentum building for the use of focused ultrasound to deliver therapies for a number of brain disorders.”

Editor’s note. This appeared at and is reprinted with permission.

Categories: Health Care