New tumour-injecting gel to treat brain cancer revealed
Mahidol University has introduced biopolymer gel, a new drug delivery system, to effectively treat brain cancer patients while also reducing the cost.
"The new treatment is the first of its kind in Asean," said Prof Dr Piyamitr Sritara, dean of the Faculty of Medicine at Ramathibodi Hospital, referring to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
The biopolymer gel is the result of a decade-long joint-research project between the engineering and medicine faculties at Mahidol University's Ramathibodi Hospital.
Dr Piyamitr said it contains SN-38 anti-brain cancer drug that can be directly injected into a brain tumour without affecting the surrounding area. The biopolymer gel also has a Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) certification meaning it is safe for use.
"Brain cancer is the hardest cancer to cure because it requires an operation. Even the slightest damage from brain surgery can lead to paralysis or even death. In addition, it's hard to treat brain cancer with chemotherapy," he said.
Prof Suradej Hongeng, a paediatric department doctor, said the new drug delivery method has passed the first clinical trial and will move to the second trial soon.
He said seven patients participated in the first trial, each with a large tumour inside their brain. If left untreated, they would not have survived another three months.
Fortunately, the research results were successful.
"We found the patients live longer and suffer no side effects or infection after the treatment. Furthermore, we took some samples of the medicated tumour and found that all the cancer cells were dead while the surrounding healthy tissues were still alive," Prof Suradech said.
Assoc.Prof.Dr. Norased Nasongkla, a research head who leads the Biomedical Engineering Department, said this technology would change the way chemotherapy treatments are used because the biopolymer gel can deliver high doses of the same drugs directly to the tumour.
It also removes the risk of unpleasant side effects such as kidney failure and liver or ulcer infections and can be applied to treat other cancers later, Prof Norased said.
Chemotherapy drugs typically destroy healthy tissue and weaken patients' immune systems "but now we can directly target the cancer cells", he added.