While advances in cancer therapy in recent years have improved the prognosis of many forms of brain cancer, there are still types of brain tumours where conventional therapy is not successful. Traditionally, there are three ways to treat a brain tumour: The (partial) removal of the tumour by a surgeon, the destruction of tumour tissue using radiation (radiotherapy), and the destruction of tumour tissue using cancer drugs (chemotherapy). Often, these approaches are combined to get better results. However, for many patients having surgery is not possible, and radiation and chemotherapy can have limited success and dangerous side effects.

A fundamental limitation of chemotherapy for brain cancer treatment is that the human body has very effective ways for protecting the brain from toxic substances reaching this important organ. While this is a very important mechanism to protect one of our most vulnerable organs this is a problem for chemotherapy as many cancer drugs do only reach the brain in small quantities when being ingested or injected into the bloodstream. Additionally, while destroying cancer cells many cancer drugs are also very toxic for healthy tissue and can cause great damage to organs such as the kidneys.

We work on a new way to deliver cancer drugs enclosed in nanoparticles directly into a brain tumour. This means that we try to make the delivery of existing cancer drugs into the brain more effective.  Our approach consists of a device which can be directly implanted into a brain tumour with a small surgery and which releases cancer drugs inside the tumour.  This allows to deliver cancer drugs in a more targeted fashion to protect healthy tissue and it allows to achieve larger drug concentrations in the brain.

Tobias E. Naegele

NanoDTC Student, c2018