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Delivering Chemo Directly Into Brain Tumors Shows Promise
Date:5/4/2009

Survival times for those with malignant gliomas increased, study found

MONDAY, May 4 (HealthDay News) -- Using a catheter to deliver chemotherapy drugs directly into a deadly type of brain tumor is showing promise in early clinical trials, researchers report.

Malignant gliomas are difficult to treat using standard chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Only about 3 percent of patients diagnosed with a malignant glioma survive five years or more, according to background information in the study.

With the new method, researchers inserted catheters carrying the chemotherapy drug Topotecan (Hycamtin) directly into the tumors of 16 patients with recurrent malignant gliomas.

The patients who received the Topotecan had a median survival of 59 weeks, although a few patients lived much longer. The median time to tumor progression was 20 weeks, and 77 percent of patients survived for at least six months.

"Those numbers are better than any treatment for recurrent gliomas we have now," said study author Dr. Jeffrey Bruce, co-director of the Brain Tumor Center at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City.

Findings from the Phase 1 trial are slated to be presented Monday at the American Association of Neurological Surgeons annual meeting, in San Diego.

Malignant gliomas are typically resistant to treatment for several reasons, explained Dr. Paul Fisher, an associate professor of neurology and pediatrics at Stanford Medical Center and the Beirne Family Director of Neuro-Oncology.

Chemotherapy is typically given orally or intravenously. In brain tumors, chemotherapy is not very effective, because drugs are not able to penetrate the blood-brain barrier, which prevents most drugs in the bloodstream from entering the brain, the researchers wrote.

Malignant gliomas also send out tentacles, making the tumors very difficult to completely remove surgically. Even when there's
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