Brain tumors succumb to drugs delivered via bone scaffold

A team of researchers from Nottingham University in the U.K. has repurposed a bone-healing polymer to achieve something very different: delivery of cancer drugs to tumors in the brain after surgery.

Many brain cancer relapses occur as a result of leftover tumor cells in the brain after surgery, according to a report in The Engineer. But by using a polymer made up of two different microparticles--PLGA and PEG--the scientists found a way to safely deliver chemotherapy and neutralize the remaining cells.

Originally used as a scaffold to knit broken bones, a surgeon would use the paste to line the cavity left after the removal of a tumor. Upon reaching body temperature, the paste solidifies and, when preloaded with cancer drugs, gradually releases them after the surgery is complete. The scientists showed this using solution-based tests as well as a 3-D model before a trial in a mouse brain with the cancer drug etoposide.

And because such a method is so directly targeted to the tumor, its effect on healthy cells could prove to be reduced from other forms of delivery.

"Our system is an innovative method of drug delivery for the treatment of brain tumors and is intended to be administered immediately after surgery by the operating neurosurgeon," lead researcher Ruman Rahman, of Nottingham University, said in a statement. "Ultimately, this method of drug delivery, in combination with existing therapies, may result in more effective treatment of brain tumors, prolonged patient survival and reduced morbidity."

The method could be used in clinical trials as soon as three years from now, according to the report, but until then will, of course, need plenty of safety testing in animals.

- here's the Engineer report