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Head-mounted magnetic device shrinks brain tumor


Head-mounted magnetic device shrinks brain tumor
Head-mounted magnetic device shrinks brain tumor

A team of US-based researchers has used an innovative head-worn device to shrink a brain tumor, potentially paving the way for a powerful new non-invasive treatment for glioblastoma.

In recent studies, the team – which includes researchers based at the Peak Center for Brain and Pituitary Tumor Treatment and Research at the Houston Methodist Neurological Institute – found that the device, which produces an oscillating magnetic field, called an “oncomagnetic device,” was able to rapidly kill glioblastoma cells in culture and implant it in mice. Shrinks human glioblastoma tumors and prolongs their survival. The device was also used to shrink end-stage recurrent glioblastoma in a patient who did not have access to any other approved treatment options. Researchers describe the results of this case study in Frontiers in Oncology.

As co-author Santosh Helekar of the Houston Methodist Research Institute explains, the portable, wearable device consists of "powerful permanent magnets rapidly rotated by high-speed electric motors whose rotation and timing are controlled by a programmable microcontroller powered by a rechargeable battery." Magnet and motor assemblies are housed in vibration, sound and heat insulated enclosures mounted on a helmet worn by the patient. A therapy-specific rotational frequencies and timing pattern is then used to stimulate the brain to treat the glioblastoma.

Glioblastoma is the most common cancer of the brain. Helekar observes that advances in his treatment have only slightly extended the median survival of patients newly diagnosed with the disease - from nine months forty years ago to "about 15 to 20 months today."

Hopefully, this single-patient case report demonstrated that one month of oncomagnetic therapy with an oscillating magnetic field for two hours up to three times a day on weekdays reduced the volume of end-stage recurrent glioblastoma. More than 30%.

Helekar notes that the new technique is currently being used in both research and clinical settings under the auspices of an ongoing research project supported by the Houston Methodist Research Institute's Translational Research Initiative.

Cancer cell death: Schema of the oncomagnetic device and its proposed mechanism of action. (Courtesy: Santosh Helekar)

“Our recently published laboratory research findings show that the oncomagnetic device kills glioblastoma and other cancer cells in culture by increasing reactive oxygen species [ROS] in the mitochondria and cytoplasm of these cells, sparing non-cancerous cells such as neurons, astrocytes, and non-cancerous bronchial epithelial cells,” explains Helekar.

“We hypothesize that the increase in reactive oxygen species is at least partially due to magnetically-induced disruption of electron flow in the mitochondrial electron transport chain,” he continues. "Rotating magnetic fields affect the spins of unpaired electrons that are replaced by free radical intermediates in chemical reactions involved in the non-moving transmembrane protein complexes of the electron transport chain. Confirmation of some predictions of this hypothesis will be published shortly."

Head-mounted magnetic device shrinks brain tumor
Head-mounted magnetic device shrinks brain tumor

Next steps

A key advantage of the new device is that it has no known serious side effects, unlike existing treatments for glioblastoma. It also does not require drug treatment and does not require shaving of the head.

"The total daily treatment time on weekdays is only up to six hours," says Helekar. “The device is likely to be much cheaper due to its low cost and simplicity. The device is very easy and convenient to use because it involves wearing a helmet up to three times a day.”

Multimodal spectroscopy detects brain tumors in vivo

The team is currently conducting laboratory-based preclinical studies of the device to test its biophysical, cellular and molecular mechanisms of action on cells in culture, as well as its safety and efficacy in mouse models of glioblastoma.

“Together with David Baskin, Peak Center director and vice president of neurosurgery as principal investigator, we continue the FDA-approved compassionate use treatment of patients with end-stage recurrent glioblastoma, as reported in a recently published case report.” says Helekar. “Our plans are to obtain regulatory approval for a pilot clinical trial to test the safety and efficacy of the device for the treatment of glioblastoma. We also plan to collaborate with other national and international institutions to conduct similar research in other types of cancer.”


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