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“Tumor Monorail” Can Move Inaccessible Tumors

Update Date: Feb 18, 2014 09:35 AM EST
Brain
The tumor monorail is made up of nanofibers that mimic the pathways that cancerous cells typically use to spread. (Photo : filterforge/Flickr)

Even though science has advanced significantly over the past decades, diseases will inevitability evade treatments. For years, doctors attempted to find better and more effective ways to treat glioblastomas, which are difficult-to-treat brain tumors that can spread throughout the inside of the brain. Now, researchers from Georgia Institute of Technology believe that they have found a way to treat these types of inaccessible tumors by forcing them to move to their deaths using a "tumor monorail."

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For this study, the team tested a new method on mice models and found that tumors can be tricked into moving along the thin nanofibers that the researchers created. The nanofibers were created to mimic the channels in the brain that the tumor cells would have typically used in order to spread. By following the path that the researchers designed via nanofiber technology, the tumors would migrate to an area where the team could ideally access the tumor and shrink or destroy it

"The cancer cells normally latch on to these natural structures and ride them like a monorail to other parts of the brain," one of the researchers, Professor Ravi Bellamkonda, said according to BBC News, "By providing an attractive alternative fiber, we can efficiently move the tumors along a different path to a destination that we choose."

Once the brain tumors followed these pathways, the researchers were able to implant toxic gel to treat them. The researchers found that the treated mice's tumor was smaller than the untreated mice's tumor by 93 percent. The researchers reported that the "tumor monorail" was effective in moving several types of cancers.

"It's a way of bringing the tumor to the drug, not the drug to the tumor." Professor Bellamkonda added. "You can move a tumor along a path you specify and then kill it, it's not creating extra tumor and the primary tumor actually shrinks. "

Even though this type of treatment is extremely new, the researchers are optimistic that after more research, the tumor monorail can change how cancers are dealt with. First, the monorail could make tumors more operable. Second, since the monorail can shrink tumor size, it could make living with cancer easier. Third, the monorail could make cancers more accessible and therefore curable.

The findings were published in Nature Materials.

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