A team of researchers from Johns Hopkins University in the US has developed an innovative gel that delivers drugs and has managed to cure all mice affected by aggressive brain cancer. This offers new hope for patients diagnosed with glioblastoma, one of the deadliest and most common brain tumors in humans.
The gel contains a combination of the aCD47 antibody and paclitaxel, a drug against various types of cancer. The gel self-assembles into nanometer-sized filaments that are inserted into the tiny grooves left after the brain tumor is surgically removed, constantly releasing the drug for several weeks. In this way, the active ingredients remain close to the injection site, reaching areas that are inaccessible to surgery.
The drug kills persistent cancer cells and suppresses tumor growth, while the specific antibody blocks macrophages, which in certain cases protect cancer cells and allow aggressive tumor growth.
When the researchers re-challenged the surviving mice with a new glioblastoma tumor, their immune systems alone defeated the cancer without additional medication. It appears that the gel not only prevents cancer but also helps build the immune memory needed to prevent recurrence.
However, applying the gel directly to the brain without surgical removal of the tumor resulted in a 50% survival rate, so the scientists consider surgery essential for this approach to work 100%.
The new gel offers hope for future treatment of glioblastoma because it integrates chemotherapy and immunotherapy, a combination of cancer therapies that the researchers say is difficult to deliver intracranially simultaneously due to the molecular composition of the ingredients. “The gel is implanted at the time of tumor resection, which makes it work very well,” explains Tyler. “The challenge for us now is to transfer an exciting phenomenon from the laboratory to clinical trials,” said co-author Henry Brem, a chief neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital.