The blood-brain barrier, a protective sheath surrounding the brain’s blood supply, prevents more than just germs and toxins from entering the brain — it also blocks crucial medicines that could treat brain cancer.
Alexandre Carpentier, MD, neurosurgeon at the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris, used an ultrasound device to open the blood-brain barrier in patients with glioblastoma — the most common and deadly type of brain tumor found in adults. He found that opening this barrier allowed significant amounts of chemotherapy to reach the tumors, when previously only miniscule amounts could reach the brain.
Focused Ultrasound Foundation in Charlottesville, Va., developed SonoCloud, the device behind this barrier-breaking technology.
To open the brain-blood barrier, researchers inject microbubbles into the bloodstream. SonoCloud, implanted near the patient’s tumor, sends ultrasonic sound waves into the brain, which excites the bubbles. The bubbles push up against the cells and cause pressure, opening the barrier for an injected drug to cross into the brain.
In his study, featured in the journal Science Translational Medicine on Wednesday, Dr. Carpentier implanted the device in 15 patients. Used during monthly chemotherapy sessions, SonoCloud showed no ill effects after six months.
Dr. Carpentier is currently designing the next phase of the clinical trial to determine how much more effective chemotherapy is when injected with an opened blood-brain barrier.