PHILADELPHIA, Pa. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — They’re called microbubbles, small bubbles with a solid shell and a gas inside, and they work in tandem with radiation treatment. It’s new hope on the horizon for the millions suffering from advanced liver disease.
“By getting access just to the tumor with the blood supply by the catheter and depositing beads only within the tumor, the hope is we’re cooking those tumors, but not the surrounding liver. Not the healthy tissue,” said John Eisenbrey, PhD, a radiology researcher at Thomas Jefferson University. (Read Full Interview)
Liver cancer is one of the most deadly cancers, largely due to hepatitis ‘c’; in addition, an increase in fatty liver disease can cause further complications.
Jesse Civan, Medical Director at Jefferson Liver Tumor Center said, “Someone who has obesity, diabetes, may not appreciate any symptoms, so it’s very important that they’re checked by their primary care physician and referred to a hepatologist.”
Because liver cancer is so deadly, researchers are testing the microbubbles. Glass radiation beads are inserted into the liver, then the microbubbles are infused into the blood.
“We can focus our ultrasound beam only on the liver tumor while the bubbles are circulating everywhere in the body, the ultrasound focuses just on the tumor itself and pops the bubbles only within the tumor itself,” explained Eisenbrey.
When the bubbles pop, they boost the radiation. Getting them into the body is similar to other types of medical procedures.
Colette Shaw, MD, Assistant Professor and Interventional Radiologist at TJU said, “For the patients it’s like having an angiogram done and for those patients who’ve had cardio catheterizations, it would be similar, so you can access the blood vessel either in the wrist or in the groin.”
The early findings, still in clinical trials, show good response.
“So the hope with a lot of these therapies is you first destroy that blood supply and that eventually starves the tumor and then it begins to shrink over time,” Eisenbrey said.
Right now, the researchers are using commercial bubbles off-label but are also working with chemists and engineers to put chemo meds, oxygen and other combinations inside the microbubbles to circulate through the blood, shrink the tumor and give patients a longer lifespan.
Contributors to this news report include: Donna Parker, Field Producer; Kirk Manson, Videographer; Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Hayley Hudson, Assistant Producer; Roque Correa, Editor.
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TOPIC: MICROBUBBLES TREAT LIVER CANCER?
REPORT: MB #4462
BACKGROUND: The liver can be affected by primary liver cancer, which arises in the liver, or by cancer which forms in other parts of the body and then spreads to the liver. Most liver cancer is secondary or metastatic, meaning it started elsewhere in the body. Primary liver cancer, which starts in the liver, accounts for about two percent of cancers in the U.S., but up to half of all cancers in some undeveloped countries. This is mainly due to the prevalence of hepatitis, caused by contagious viruses, that predisposes a person to liver cancer. Because the liver is made up of several different types of cells, several types of tumors can form there. Some of these are benign, and some are cancerous and can spread to other parts of the body. These tumors have different causes and are treated differently. The outlook for health or recovery depends on what type of tumor you have.
TREATMENT: Operations may be used to treat liver cancer, such as surgery to remove the tumor or liver transplantation. Localized treatments for liver cancer are those that are administered directly to the cancer cells or the area surrounding the cancer cells. Localized treatment options for liver cancer include heating or freezing cancer cells, injecting alcohol or chemotherapy drugs into the tumor, or placing beads filled with radiation in the liver. Targeted drugs work by interfering with specific abnormalities within a tumor. They have been shown to slow or stop advanced hepatocellular carcinoma from progressing for a few months longer than with no treatment.
NEW TECHNOLOGY: Microbubbles were originally developed to help improve ultrasound imaging. However, being able to “pop” oxygen-filled microbubbles within tumors using beams of ultrasound presented researchers with an opportunity. Most solid tumors are oxygen-deficient, in part because they quickly outgrow the supply of oxygen-carrying blood vessels that can penetrate the tumor mass. That lack of oxygen also makes tumors more resistant to radiation, which is why trying to flush tumors with oxygen became such a prized goal in the field. In this study, John Eisenbrey, Ph.D., and colleagues showed that popping the microbubble with ultrasound immediately prior to radiation treatment could triple sensitivity of the cancer to radiation. It also nearly doubled the survival times in mice from 46 days with placebo, nitrogen-filled microbubbles, to 76 days with oxygen-filled microbubbles.
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