Infrared implant between skin and skull helps kill brain cancer
Brain cancer is one of the most insidious forms of the disease, but researchers at Stanford have now developed a wireless device that could help improve survival times. When implanted between the skin and skull, the remotely activated device heats up gold nanoparticles to kill cancer from within.
Glioblastoma is an aggressive form of cancer with only a 5% survival rate at five years. It’s usually treated by surgically removing the tumor, followed by radiation or chemotherapy to mop up any remaining cells. Unfortunately, the cancer often returns in a form that’s resistant to those treatments.
But in a new study, scientists at Stanford developed a less invasive method to treat brain tumors that, in tests in mice, significantly increased survival times. All it took was 15 minutes of treatment per day for 15 days, even while the mice were just doing their usual thing.
The technique works on an emerging treatment for various types of cancer that involves injecting nanoparticles into a tumor, then triggering them to heat up. Triggers can take the form of an electromagnetic field, ultrasound or light, and since cancer cells are more sensitive to heat than healthy cells, this can kill them with minimal harm to surrounding tissue.
The new Stanford device is designed to be implanted between the skin and the skull, and emit infrared light when switched on. Star-shaped nanoparticles made of gold are injected into the brain tumor through a tiny hole in the skull, and the infrared light from the device heats them up by as much as 5 °C (9 °F). After a few rounds of this treatment, the cancer cells were successfully killed off.
The team says that adjusting the power of the infrared energy as well as the wavelengths of the light can allow them to target tumors of different sizes and in different locations within the brain.
In tests in mice, the treatment was found to reduce the cancer cells in the brain and significantly extend the animals’ lifespans – up to three times the survival time of untreated mice on average. When chemotherapy was added to the mix, mice survived even longer.
As promising as the study seems so far, it’s of course difficult to extrapolate the results to humans. But the team hopes to scale up the device for use in human patients, as another weapon in the arsenal against this deadly form of cancer.
The research was published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.
Source: Stanford University