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Early cancer treatment successes lead to CAREER Award for Rafael Davalos
Date:4/5/2011

ration to treat diseased cells with and without adjuvant chemotherapeutic agents or radiation. The CAREER award is the National Science Foundation's most prestigious award in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars.

Davalos explained his novel process applies electrical pulses, each microseconds in length, to a targeted tissue area. The goal is to permanently open nanopores in the membranes of a cell, causing cell death. The destruction of the cells in this case is not due to injury from heat, and therefore doesn't damage the supporting structures in the tissue, including the extracellular matrix, blood vessels, and nerves. "This accomplishment is very important since it allows the selective treatment of cells while respecting healthy tissue architecture," Davalos added.

"The procedure is essentially done with two minimally invasive electrodes placed into the targeted region," Davalos said, "delivering approximately 80 pulses to the site in about one minute. The pulses are high voltage, but low energy, so no significant heating occurs as a result of the procedure."

With his CAREER award of $ 450,000, Davalos will specifically look at whether irreversible electroporation procedures can be adapted for the destruction of special tumors called glioblastoma multiforme, the most common and aggressive type of primary brain tumor in humans. The median survival for people diagnosed with these tumors is only 15 months. The team, which also includes Tom Ellis at Wake Forest University and John Robertson at the Vet School, has already treated a canine patient with a brain tumor that was refractory to surgical resection. They used their procedure to kill a majority of the tumor volume, making it possible to treat the rest of the remaining cancer cells with radiation. At four months after treatment, there was no sign of the tumor.

"One of the reasons for the poor survival is that glioma cells typically infiltrate
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Contact: Lynn A. Nystrom
tansy@vt.edu
540-231-4371
Virginia Tech
Source:Eurekalert  

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