Glioblastoma is a deadly form of brain cancer with limited treatment options and a high mortality rate.
Two separate EU-funded projects, INSTAGLOW led by FluoGuide and OncoViroMRI led by researchers in Israel and Germany, aim to revolutionize the treatment and monitoring of glioblastoma.
Real-time cancer visualization
FluoGuide, a Danish biotechnology company, has developed a fluorescent chemical dye that can be injected into patients before surgery to attack and illuminate aggressive cancer cells.
The fluorescent dye is activated when the surgeon shines infrared light on the brain tissue, allowing the surgeon to precisely remove the cancer cells.
The technology is based on a specific enzyme, the urokinase-type plasminogen activator receptor (uPAR), which is common in aggressive cancer cells.
By attaching a protein-fluorophore tandem to this enzyme, the dye illuminates the boundary between healthy tissue and cancerous tissue during surgery, helping surgeons with more precise removal.
The dye was tested on 36 patients in Denmark and Sweden and was found to be safe. The next phase of research will include further trials in Europe and the USA
While MRI is a common method for “detecting” brain tumors, it is not sufficient to detect early changes in a tumor.
Dr. Or Perlman and his team have modified MRI to produce better images by relying on other molecules instead of water content.
The new MRI technique will be used in conjunction with oncolytic viruses designed to destroy cancer cells.
This approach allows doctors to map dying cells in the brain and determine the effectiveness of virus treatment.
The biggest challenge now is to accelerate the imaging process using artificial intelligence. The new imaging method was mainly tested on mice. The next steps include testing on human patients.
Both the INSTAGLOW and OncoViroMRI projects have potential applications beyond brain cancer. FluoGuide has successfully tested its dye on 16 lung cancer patients and is also evaluating its use in breast cancer and head and neck cancer.
Given that thousands of people die from glioblastoma every year, these innovative approaches offer a glimmer of hope.
While both are in different stages of research and clinical trials, the promising results so far bode well for future treatment options.
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