Nano-therapy that cooks deadly brain tumors advances in Germany

Nanotechnology experts have been tackling the monster task of combating aggressive brain tumors that can't be beat with chemotherapy and radiation treatments alone. This week MagForce reported that its therapy, which involves heating magnetic nanoparticles in tumor cells, was initiated in a patient with a form of brain cancer called glioblastoma at the University of Giessen in Germany.

While the "NanoTherm" therapy was cleared for the market in EU countries last year, it's still regarded in the medical community as a relatively novel approach to treating the aggressive brain tumors. Germany-based MagForce has been laboring for years to bring the treatment to market, and the firm had been planning to release the product this year. This week's news says that the company has begun the treatment in patients in Germany as planned and the country's state insurance covered the cost under "an individual patient agreement."

At the University of Giessen, the patient with the brain cancer got an injection of the firm's magnetic nanoparticles into the tumor site. The aminosaline coatings on the iron oxide nanoparticles enable the nanoparticles to aggregate. The patient went to Charité University Medical Center Berlin for the next step of the therapy, which involves applying a magnetic field to rapidly move the nanoparticles and heat them up in order to kill the tumor cells or make them more responsive to chemo or radiation therapy. The patient treated at the Berlin hospital was also treated with radiotherapy.

"This is a great milestone for both our novel technology and for MagForce as a company," Dr. Peter Heinrich, MagForce's CEO, said. "Through our collaborations with experts in both Germany and internationally, we plan to further develop this treatment approach for a variety of solid tumor indications with high medical need."

It's too soon to know what benefit the patient recently treated will get from the nanomedicine approach. However, the treatment accompanied by radiotherapy provided a median survival time of 13.4 months in 59 patients with glioblastoma after recurrence of their cancer was diagnosed, compared with 6.2 months of survival for patients in a control group, the company reported in 2009.

Now the firm says that it's investigating use of its NanoTherm treatment in mid- and early-stage trials for certain types of prostate and pancreatic cancers, respectively.

- here's the release