The technique involves placing long needles in the skull and sending pulses of electrical current into a glioblastoma tumor – the pernicious variety of brain cancer that caused the death of Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie.
“A safer and more effective cancer treatment may be clinically possible,” said Dr. Mike Moser (MD), general surgery researcher at the USask College of Medicine and co-author of a study recently published in Journal of Biomechanical Engineering🇧🇷
“Patients with brain tumors may now have another local treatment option that does not involve opening the skull and does not involve heat or radiation.”
The USask-led research team created 3D models of cells to test which electric current treatment protocols – called irreversible electroporation (IRE or NanoKnife) and irreversible high-frequency electroporation (H-FIRE) – can destroy glioblastoma cells, minimizing the risk to surrounding cells. tissues and blood vessels.
Glioblastoma, the most aggressive and deadly form of brain cancer, affects one in 25,000 Canadians, and only six percent of people with cancer currently survive more than five years after diagnosis.
The technique depends on how the glioblastoma cells respond to the electrical current. Researchers have found that tumor cells can be killed with an electric field smaller than what would kill surrounding healthy tissue.
They also found that this technique temporarily disrupts the blood-brain barrier – the semipermeable membrane that allows only small molecules to pass from the blood into the brain.
“The blood-brain barrier prevents many treatment drugs from reaching the tumor,” said USask biomedical engineering researcher Dr. Chris Zhang (PhD), study co-author. “We showed that our technique can also help to open this barrier, so that the brain is better able to receive other treatments – such as chemotherapy or drugs that help to increase the immune response – and help the patient to fight the tumor in a systematic way. 🇧🇷
The team also involved USask doctoral student Lujia Ding and postdoctoral fellow Dr. Zheng Feng (PhD), as well as researchers from Fudan University of China and Shanghai University. The project is part of an extended collaboration with Dr. Bing Zhang (PhD), a former USask doctoral student of Moser and Zhang.
The research was funded by CREATE and Discovery Grants from Canada’s Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, a grant from the Royal University Hospital Foundation, and a grant from the National Natural Science Foundation of China to Dr. Bing Zhang and his team.
The next step in research is to develop a combined method of tumor removal and immunotherapy using the H-FIRE technique.