A research group led by Dr. Patrick Hsieh of the Institute of Biomedical Sciences at Academia Sinica in Taiwan has just published an article describing a new method for the treatment of one of the deadliest forms of brain cancer. Treating brain diseases is extremely challenging due to the presence of the Blood-Brain Barrier (BBB), which prevents 98% of clinically prescribed drugs from entering the brain. As a result, the median survival rate for a patient with glioblastoma multiforme, a severe form of brain cancer, is less than 1.5 years after diagnosis. Dr. Hsieh’s team discovered a new method to temporarily weaken the BBB, thereby allowing selected chemotherapy drugs to enter the parts of the brain where the tumor needs to be treated. In experiments with mice, this discovery was shown to have helped delay tumor progression and extend survival rates by more than 30%.

The authors were also able to confirm these findings in Taiwanese mini-pigs from Orchid Island. As Dr. Hsieh pointed out, “Quite often, findings from mice cannot be successfully scaled up to larger animals. The fact that we could observe the same effects in pigs is a great sign that this technique could also be successful with human patients.”

According to Dr. David Lundy, first author of the paper that Dr. Hsieh’s team published, “I was truly surprised by how well [this technique] worked when we treated mice that had human brain tumors. After receiving the combination treatment, the treated mice were happily running around, but the untreated mice in the comparison group were displaying obvious symptoms of brain cancer. We measured the tumor size every week, and confirmed that the treated mice did have smaller tumors. Those mice went on to live longer than the untreated ones. And when we increased the number of doses of the treatment, they lived for even longer still.”

Dr. Patrick Hsieh is a Research Fellow at Academia Sinica’s Institute of Biomedical Sciences (IBMS). Dr. David Lundy was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the IBMS, and now serves as Assistant Professor at Taipei Medical University. The authors collaborated with the Taiwan National Laboratory Animal Center (NLAC), with their research being funded by both the Taiwan Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) and Academia Sinica. The paper presenting the results of their research, entitled “Inducing a Transient Increase in Blood Brain Barrier Permeability for Improved Liposomal Drug Therapy of Glioblastoma Multiforme” was published online in the journal ACS Nano on December 11, 2018.