In the field of neuroscience, and specifically research, the greatest need is arguably in the area of brain tumors. One of the most aggressive forms of brain cancer is glioblastoma multiforme. There is no known treatment for these tumors because the drugs that could kill them cannot get past the blood-brain barrier. Designed to keep toxic substances away from the brain, it works a little too well in that cancer drugs, many of which are toxic in one way but helpful in others, cannot get to the site of these aggressive tumors. A new potential breakthrough from a research team in the UK could offer some hope to brain tumor patients however.
Prof. Geoff Pilkington and Dr. Richard Hill, from the Brain Tumour Research Centre of Excellence at the University of Portsmouth, England presented their research findings late last month at a brain tumor conference in Poland and their findings have the neuroscience community talking about possibly the first real drug that could actually reach the brain.
Their group has been collaborating with a privately held drug company in the UK, Innovate Pharmaceuticals. Together the Brain Tumour Centre research team, Innovate developed a formulation they refer to as IP1867B. It contains a liquid reformulation of aspirin and two other ingredients and is in soluble form. The development of stable soluble liquid aspirin has been the goal of many companies and researchers. Despite many attempts, up until now there have not been any successful efforts. Every try has resulted in a formulation that still contains tiny grains of the active ingredient salicylic acid, and it’s these particles that cause gastric distress and keep the liquid from being able to pass through the blood brain barrier
The ability of IP1867B to slip through the miniscule openings in the blood brain barrier is what makes this discovery significant for patients with brain tumors. Glioblastoma is the deadliest known form of brain cancer, striking almost 200,000 people per year in the United States alone. These tumors are extremely aggressive and there is no cure. The prognosis for patients with glioblastoma is in terms of median survival, with almost 90% of patients dying from the disease within five years.
The team of researchers in the UK worked with cancer cells from adults and children with brain tumors. Cells from a variety of tumors were exposed to IP1867B alone and in combination with one or both of the other two ingredients. Results from these experiments showed that it was ten times more effective against cancer cells than any other treatment including chemotherapy agents and radiation alone and in combination.
Even more significant than the effect on the cancer cells is that none of the three ingredients in the formulation was harmful to surrounding normal cells. While the results of this trial are certainly exciting for researchers and patients alike, more research is needed to develop it into pre-clinical form and further on to develop clinical trials with patients and not just cell samples. In a press release, Sue Farrington Smith, Chief Executive of Brain Tumour Research, said, “This is a potential game-changer for research into brain tumours and clearly shows what sustainable research is able to achieve. It is science like this that will enable us to eventually find a cure for this devastating disease which kills more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer.” Check out the video below to learn more.