MRI and Ultrasound Can Sneak Cancer Drugs into the Brain

Cancer treatments have come a long way. In just the past few decades, monoclonal antibody treatments have become increasingly common, harnessing the body’s own immune system to attack cancer cells. But there’s one place that this therapy can’t effectively reach—the brain.

That may be changing. In a new study, researchers temporarily made the blood-brain barrier more permeable, allowing a monoclonal antibody to target cancer that had spread to the brain. Scientists made it possible for the drug to cross the barrier—a protective membrane which prevents most larger molecules from entering the brain—using focused ultrasound beams guided by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Though there has been promising research on the technique, it had never been used to deliver a drug to the brain. Scientists also used a system of radioactive tagging to show that more of the drug had reached the tumors. No patient had notable side effects from the treatment. Though the study was preliminary, it could open the door to treating a whole range of diseases impacting the brain.

The treatment holds “tremendous promise,” said Nir Lipsman, a neurosurgeon and scientist at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, Canada and a senior author of the study.

— Read on spectrum.ieee.org/mri-ultrasound-brain-cancer