Unique Blood-Brain Barrier Cancer Surgery is Successful

Canadian researchers have breached the human brain’s protective layer in what could be a major cancer breakthrough.

The innovative method utilised by the researchers was used in order to deliver cancer drugs.

Scientists utilised miniscule gas-filled bubbles, which were injected into the bloodstream of patients.

This enabled researchers involved in the study to create small, but permanent, holes in the blood-brain barrier.

As clinical trials continue, around ten further patients will undergo the same procedure.

Cancer experts have already stated that the technique, which is being carried out at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, could make a huge difference to the treatment of cancer.

It promises the possibility that doctors will be able to deliver potent cancer drugs that would otherwise be ineffective.

Although researchers have concentrated on cancer patients during the existing clinical trial, it is notable that this non-invasive methods could be utilised for other brain conditions.

Dementia and Parkinson’s sufferers could thus also benefit from this innovative technique.

However, researchers have already struck a note of caution regarding the experimental technique, considering that considerably more safe studies are needed before its efficacy can be judged.

Animal trials have produced some results, but it is not yet clear whether the treatment will work over a longer time period, or have side-effects.

Scientists operating as part of a team at Sunnybrook were able to rip temporary holes in the blood-brain barrier in order to allow chemotherapy drugs to pass through safely.

One of the patients involved in the treatment was a 56-year-old woman named Bonny Hall.

Ms. Hall was provided the opportunity to be the first patient in the world to try out the treatment enabling chemotherapy drugs to be delivered directly.

As part of the treatment, Hall was given an intravenous infusion of chemotherapy followed by a small dose of the micro-bubbles.

Early indications are that the treatment has been successful, and researchers will assess the extent of the chemotherapy in the coming days.

Commenting on the research, Hall indicated her willingness to assist researchers, and struck an optimistic note for the future.

“If I can help in any way then I will. It’s going to also look after things like epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, a lot of other diseases. This isn’t just about a brain tumour. I just want to be a normal mum, a normal grandma, just a normal housewife, a normal wife. That’s all I really want to be.”

Lead researcher and neurosurgeon Dr Todd Mainprize commented favourably on the research.

“The results are preliminary at this point because we don’t have the levels of chemotherapy – but based on the gadolinium MRI scan, we were clearly able to open up the blood-brain barrier non-invasively, reversibly and it appears quite safely. We are always concerned about possible downsides to any treatment and this is why this phase-one trial is undergoing.”

It is hoped that it will eventually be possible to utilise this technique in clinical settings.

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MIT Researchers Make Major Chemotherapy Breakthrough

In a major cancer breakthrough, scientists have discovered a molecular mechanism that allows tumours to develop resistance to chemotherapy.

This research has been reported in the journal Cancer Cell, with scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge having documented the process.

The new discovery will act as a backup when a specific gene called p53 is missing. This gene usually helps healthy cells prevent mutations.

Backing up the system usually is a pathway called MK2, which allows cells with damaged DNA to repair themselves.

The study ultimately found that a measure of the MK2 pathway performed excellently in terms of predicting which patients responded to chemotherapy.

In the absence of p53, cell division continues during chemotherapy, ensuring that cancer cells continue to proliferate after the process has be completed.

Michael Yaffe, a professor of biology and biological engineering, elaborated on the process:

“I would argue that this particular RNA-binding protein is really what makes tumor cells resistant to being killed by chemotherapy when p53 is not around.”

Prof. Yaffe and colleagues discovered that when p53 is missing – as it is in about half of all tumours – the MK2 pathway takes over.

They thus suggest that targeting the backup system could make p53-deficient tumour considerably more susceptible to chemotherapy.

Yaffe states that researchers discovered that the MK2 pathway does not take over all of p53’s function, only part of it:

“It only rescues the bad parts of p53’s function, but it doesn’t rescue the part of p53’s function that you would want, which is killing the tumour cells.”

The researchers found that measuring levels of the mRNA for Gadd45 and p27 could also help predict which patients are likely to respond to chemotherapy.

In a trial of patients with stage 2 lung cancers, it was demonstrated that those with high levels of mRNA for Gadd45 and p27 did not respond as well to chemotherapy as patients who had low levels of both.

Prof. Yaffee indicates that this measure could be utilised as a surrogate for the presence or absence of the pathway and concludes:

“In this trial, it was very good at predicting which patients responded to chemotherapy and which patients didn’t.”

The study shows that cancer cells have molecular mechanisms that help them maintain their integrity and survive.

It is hoped that this research will lead to a greater understanding of cancer in the continuing battle against the debilitating condition.

There are over 160,000 deaths from cancer every year in the UK alone.

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Care Quality Commission Releases Statement on Wolverhampton Chemotherapy Scandal

The Care Quality Commission has released a statement regarding issues related to Royal Wolverhampton Hospital.

This institution has recently been the subject of media headlines, following a historical case that plagued the Midlands hospital.

Between 2005 and 2010, numerous patients were given inappropriate chemotherapy treatments, not recommended by the national guidelines of the time.

This was not investigated for several years, until the Care Quality Commission was first alerted to concerns related to the Wolverhampton hospital back in September 2013.

At this time, a comprehensive inspection of the trust was carried out, and it became clear that chemotherapy treatment had not been administered appropriately.

After a lengthy investigation, the Care Quality Commission referenced the chemotherapy treatment at Royal Wolverhampton Hospital in its most recent report.

This was published back in September 2015, at which time the Care Quality Commission rated the trust as requiring improvement.

Following on from this assessment, Professor Sir Mike Richards, Chief Inspector of Hospitals at the Care Quality Commission, has been commenting on the ongoing issue, and the existing situation at the Wolverhampton hospital.

Richards firstly noted the history of this particular complaint.

“We were informed that an internal investigation had been conducted in 2009. This showed that a number of patients had received treatment for their cancer which was not recommended in national guidelines. We were also informed that this non-standard practice had ceased by 2009.

“In 2014, the trust commissioned a further external investigation by two leading oncologists. This concluded that there had been unsatisfactory practice but that with one exception this had resulted in no long-term harm. This review also looked at a more recent group of patients and confirmed that the unsatisfactory practice had ceased.”

Richards followed up by updating healthcare professionals on the action that has taken place during 2015.

“We inspected the trust again in June 2015. Our inspection team included a senior cancer specialist to enable us to look specifically at the trust’s current chemotherapy service. The conclusion of this inspection matched that of the previous reviews. We found that changes had been made and that the trust was providing a safe chemotherapy service. We have had several conversations with a whistleblower about these issues.

“Our report was published in September 2015 with a reference to the whistleblower. It concludes that the trust has acted properly to concerns raised and taken steps to learn from the incident.”

Richards concludes by correcting errors in the published Care Quality Commission report.

“However, although our report went through a factual accuracy check, unfortunately there was a typographical error in it, which should have stated that the care the patients received was ‘not in line with practice at the time’. This has since been corrected.

“Making sure that patients get safe, high-quality and compassionate care continues to be our priority. If we receive information to suggest that patients are not being cared for appropriately then we will not hesitate to take action.”

As a result of the inappropriate conduct at the hospital, fifty-five cancer patients at New Cross Hospital were given extra chemotherapy treatment they did not need in a scandal revealed by an NHS whistleblower.

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