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.
Healthcare professionals are being encouraged to enter this year’s NHS Innovation Challenge Prizes.
This competition is intended to recognise and reward frontline innovation and the adoption of such innovations across the NHS.
In its short five-year history, the NHS Innovation Challenge Prizes have played a role in identifying useful innovations within the health service, spreading across the country.
The competition is also intended to generally promote a culture of invention, and to demonstrate the value of adopting and sharing best practices.
This particular iteration of the competition has been supported by MSD, 3M, Allied Health Professionals, Academic Health and Science Networks and the National Clinical Directors of the NHS.
There is £240,000 in prize money to be contended for, and a variety of other professional packages also available.
Professional mentoring and developmental support packages will also be implemented with regard to the successful entrants, supporting the spread and adoption of the winning innovations.
The awards are separated into a variety of categories, with the intention of ensuring a diversity of entries.
Applications for the competition will be expected to demonstrate the following:
▪ Improved outcomes for patients and better value for money;
▪ New models of delivering care that flexible and responsive to the needs of local communities;
▪ Innovative ways of harnessing the coming innovations in modern medicine;
▪ Personalised services that reflect the needs and expectations of patients and their families;
▪ Financial efficiency and a contribution to economic growth.
Suzanne Rastrick, NHS England’s Chief Allied Health Professions Officer, encouraged people from across the NHS to get involved in the competition.
“Many of my fellow Allied Health Professionals have designed new ways of increasing the quality and efficiency of care and I am calling on them to share these innovative ideas. Just as the Bake Off finalists came up with some hugely innovative, exciting and unique delights, our Allied Health Professionals are just as innovative with the way they tackle problems and come up with new solutions that benefit patients and the way we work,” Rastrick stated.
Rastrick also highlighted some of the attractive categories in which healthcare professionals may submit ideas.
“The NHS Innovation Challenge Prize for Rehabilitation will recognise innovation where it has enabled people to return to work. The Rehabilitation ‘Acorn Challenge’ offers up to £10,000 for smaller ideas with potential to make a big difference for patients, such as a new care pathway, service or technology.
“If any Allied Health Professionals have designed something that improves patient outcomes and offers better value for money, something that responds to the needs of local communities, why not make an application for the prize fund before the deadline of 19 October?”
Collaborative approaches to supporting innovation and to facilitating clinical development and timely access to new treatments and vaccines for patients were unveiled in a new report this week.
The report, from the UK BioIndustry Association (BIA) and Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) follows their annual conference – ‘Pathway of Innovation from Research to Patients’ – in London last month.
The event was attended by over 140 delegates from patients’ groups, MHRA, the National Institute for Biological Standards and Control, the life science industry, the Wellcome Trust, the Jenner Institute, academic institutions and clinical trial units.
Key topics of discussion included: (i) the value of a patient-centred approach in informing and accelerating drug development and lessons learnt from the unprecedented response to the recent Ebola epidemic; (ii) the establishment of a patient-centred system for drug development with strong patients’ groups becoming increasingly involved in regulatory processes, health technology assessments and commissioning decisions.
Commenting on the publication of the report, Steve Bates, BIA CEO, said: “Following another successful joint conference with the MHRA, the publication of our first report from the event will provide a great lasting resource for SMEs, increasing awareness of the potential impact that patient engagement could have on regulatory pathways.”
Dr Siu Ping Lam, director of the licensing division at the MHRA, said: “This was a hugely productive conference. It is increasingly recognised that patients have a key role to play in regulatory decisions. This goes to the heart of MHRA’s mission of encouraging, supporting and enabling innovation”.
“We will continue to use our scientific and regulatory expertise to advise industry and make drug development programmes as efficient as possible, facilitating safe and timely patient access.”
The successful applicants to a scheme designed to make evidenced healthcare innovations more widely available to patients were announced today (Monday 6 July) by NHS England’s Medical Director Sir Bruce Keogh.
The scheme will see 17 healthcare pioneers from the UK and abroad receive national support to roll out their technologies, processes and models of care to patients, hospitals and GP practices throughout England. This support includes mentorship from seasoned innovators such as Lord Ara Darzi, a bursary, and support through the Academic Health Science Networks.
It is envisaged that the innovations will help to prevent diseases, speed up diagnosis, improve safety and efficiency of services and increase patient participation in decision making, self-management and research.
“The NHS stands on the cusp of a revolution in innovation”, said Sir Bruce Keogh, NHS England’s National Medical Director. “At its heart, innovation is the will to better, to find solutions for existing needs or new problems through more effective products, processes, technology or even the way we deliver services. Today we increase the opportunity for improving patient care by creating new conditions for ideas to thrive.”
Ultimately, a more sustainable NHS with better health outcomes for all is the aim of the NHS England scheme.
Full details of each the fellows and their innovations can be accessed on the NHS England website.