Atlanta, United States (ISJ): A team of researchers led by an Indian-born scientist developed a mechanism to move brain tumours. Researchers at the Georgia Tech and Emory University led by Prof. Ravi V. Bellamkonda have designed nanofibres thinner than human hair to lure tumour cells to areas where it is safer to operate on.
The mechanism drives the migrating cells latch onto the specially designed nanofibres and follow them to a location, potentially outside the brain, where they can be captured and killed, instead of invading new areas. Using the technique, the tumours can be move from inoperable locations to more accessible ones. Though it won't eliminate cancer, it reduces the size of brain tumours in animal models, suggesting the possibility of treating this form of brain cancer like a chronic disease, said a media release by the University. Treatment of brain tumour also known as Glioblastoma Multiforme or GBM is difficult because of its aggressive and invasive character. It often develops in parts of the brain, where surgeons are wary of operating it. Even if the preliminary tumour is removed, it often spreads to other locations, before being diagnosed. Tumour cells typically invade healthy tissues by secreting enzymes that allow the invasion to take place. The research is still at an early stage and the studies were done on rats. "We need to validate it more in other animals and also do safety and manufacturing studies," explained Prof. Bellamkonda in an email interview to Indian Science Journal. The Indian-born technologist is a George Research Alliance Distinguished Scholar at Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering of Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory School of Medicine in Atlanta, United States. Prof. Bellamkonda said his team was able to shrink the primary tumours by 90 per cent compared to controls not receiving their tumour guide device. "Generally, the search for new therapies is focussed on new drugs and small molecules. This research opens a new avenue, the use of devices to exploit the inherent feature of brain tumours to migrate along structures that mimic nerves and blood vessels," explained Prof. Ravi Bellamkonda, an alumni of Osmania University in Hyderabad. "We mimic these structural features of brain tumour invasion using polymer fibres. In this sense, this is an exciting development. Plus a device is easier to get FDA approval in terms of costs and such relative to small molecule toxic drugs." The Indian-born researcher said, his laboratory is testing several such tumours in vitro, but does not have any proven evidence if other tumours would also respond to structural cues just as brain tumours do.