Implanting a wireless device into the brain could improve outcomes during pre-clinical studies. The implant uses tumour-treating fields, emitting small electric waves, to inhibit the growth of Glioblastoma cancer cells.
More about the study
A team in China created the ultrasound-powered tumour treating device, which is placed into tumour site during surgery. The device converts ultrasound radiation into electrical energy, doing so by using a tiny generator in the chip.
The alternating electrical fields stall mitosis in cancer cells, the process by which they multiply, and therefore trigger cell death. Cancer cells are luckily more susceptible to this effect than healthy cells, due to the difference in their processes. This means healthy cells are safe from any negative effects of the treatment.
The team placed the device on either side of mature glioblastoma cells removed from patients and activated them with ultrasound. After 12 hours, the growth rate of the cancer cells had decreased by up to 58% compared with cells not exposed to the treatment.
What are the pros and cons?
Current tumour-treating fields options require electrodes to be bandaged to the shaved scalp of the user. This change in appearance and lifestyle can be very difficult for someone to adapt to, especially if their hair is a significant part of their identity. Using a microchip prevents the need for patients to shave their heads.
Additionally, people wouldn’t need to carry a battery around with them to power the device. Since the fields emitted from the chip don’t need to penetrate the skull, they require less energy and can be focused on the tumour site.
One potential downside is that cancer cells could migrate throughout the brain, meaning the tumour-treating fields’ range may no longer disrupt the the growth of those cells. By contrast, the traditional electrode approach spreads tumour-treating fields over the skull.
There’s still a way to go. This treatment could mean a big change in standard care for Glioblastoma patients, but first the chip needs to be tested in clinical studies to give us a better understanding of the safety and efficacy for humans.
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