AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 26, Number 3, 2017

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Engineering and Medicine Combine to Fight Brain Cancer

A collaboration between two laboratories – one in Engineering and the other in Medicine – has led to a promising drug delivery system that uses nanoparticles to fight a particularly aggressive and hard-to-treat brain cancer.

One obstacle that has thwarted conventional treatment of brain tumors is the blood-brain barrier, which protects the brain’s sensitive tissue from foreign elements. It also, however, blocks drugs that could otherwise be very effective for treating tumors. Researchers have managed to bypass this barrier with a method known as convection-enhanced delivery (CED), in which the drug is delivered directly to the tumor. However, most small molecules delivered directly to the brain are quickly cleared. This severely limits the drugs’ efficacy, since the invasive CED procedure typically can be performed only once because the associated morbidity and complex nature of the procedure.

A research team led by W. Mark Saltzman, the Goizueta Foundation Professor of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering, professor of cellular and molecular physiology, and member of Yale Cancer Center, and Ranjit Bindra, associate professor of therapeutic radiology and of pathology, has developed a delivery system that combines CED with nanoparticles to get drugs past the blood-brain barrier and remain longer around the tumor.

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