Therapy filters cancer that chemo misses
PENN STATE (US) —Many cancers, including breast and prostate cancers, can spread to the brain, but researchers say filtering malignant cells out of the cerebrospinal fluid may reduce the risk.
The brain and spinal cord are surrounded by cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), separated from the blood circulating throughout the rest of the body by a cellular lining known as the blood-brain barrier.
“Most chemotherapies have a difficult time crossing the blood-brain barrier, but cancer cells can if they have the right instructions,” says Joshua E. Allen, postdoctoral fellow at the Hershey Cancer Institute at Penn State.
Researchers have devised a way to move CSF through a filter outside the body that catches the cancer cells and then allows the CSF to flow back into the patient, tumor cell-free.
“Currently nothing exists that can filter cerebrospinal fluid—which, in some patients, contains malignant active cancer cells,” says neurosurgery resident Akshal S. Patel. “This therapy filters all cerebrospinal fluid.”
Many treatments, including chemotherapy, increase therapeutic resistance of cancer cells. However, filtering cells out doesn’t offer the malignant cells an opportunity to develop therapeutic resistance.
Treatment providers can count the cells captured in the filter and use that to measure the severity of metastasis, another benefit to using this method.
Approximately 15 to 20 percent of metastatic breast cancer patients eventually develop brain metastases, according to the researchers. “There is a high likelihood of breast cancer patients getting cancer cells in their cerebrospinal fluid,” Patel says.
Earlier treatment with fewer drugs
The researchers monitored the number of tumor cells in nine breast cancer patients with confirmed metastatic spread to their central nervous system. They counted both the number of tumor cells in the bloodstream and in the CSF.
Approximately half of these patients had tumor cells that moved through the blood-brain barrier. This movement of tumor cells is not necessarily restricted to later phases of breast cancer, as previously thought.
With this new knowledge in mind, the new method can help treat breast cancer—and other metastasizing cancers—earlier and with potentially fewer drugs. This filtering of body fluid is similar to that used as standard care for leukemia, and offers potentially increased cure rates.
“The minimum this therapy would provide is straining the tumor cells out,” Allen says. “But we could also include other therapies when returning the CSF to the body.”
The researchers have filed a provisional patent application for the method.
Funding in part was provided by the National Institutes of Health and the American Cancer Society.
Source: Penn State
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