It’s safe to say that almost every Canadian has, in some way or another, been affected by cancer.
The Canadian Cancer Association reports that the disease accounts for 30 per cent of all deaths across the country, which is nothing short of staggering. That’s why it should come as some relief that Canadian doctors have just discovered an incredible new way to stick it to cancer once and for all.
Up until now, only a small portion of the chemotherapy drugs injected into patients to fight brain tumours actually get to the source. That’s because of something known as a “blood-brain barrier”, which is basically a layer of tightly-packed cells that act almost like plastic wrap for blood vessels. Normally, the barrier works to keep toxins in the blood from flowing into the brain, but it also inadvertently prevents vital medications from getting to where they need to go. That’s where researchers at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto come in.
“We’re going to poke holes essentially in that Saran wrap coating in the blood vessels to allow this chemotherapy agent to get to the tumour cells,” Dr. Todd Mainprize says in the video above.
To do that, doctors inject tiny air bubbles into a patient’s blood stream. Then they blast those bubbles with a focused ultrasound, causing them to vibrate and create tiny ruptures in the blood-brain barrier. The chemotherapy agents can then sneak through those holes and get where they need to go.
“We’re giving hope to patients who have no hope today,” researcher Kullervo Hynynen said.
The procedure has so far been tested successfully in animals, but now it has its very first human subject. You can learn more about her story in the video above.