Public Release: 

University of Kentucky Neuroscientist Develops Unique Device For Treatment Of Brain Tumors

University of Kentucky Medical Center

LEXINGTON, Ky., Aug. 3, 1998 -- A device patented by a University of Kentucky Chandler Medical Center neuroscientist has shown promising early results in patient survival times in treatment of malignant gliomas, the most common type of brain tumor in adults.

The device, called Serodur, delivers chemotherapy to a non-operable brain tumor through a small plastic tube that runs directly into the center of the tumor. The tube is connected to a small plastic bubble, called an Ommaya reservoir, that is implanted under the patient's scalp. A cellophane-like permeable membrane in the bubble regulates the flow of the cancer-fighting drug into the tumor.

"By using Serodur, we're able to give small total doses that produce large concentrations of anticancer drugs in the brain without exposing the patient's body to the systemic effects of the medicine," said Roy Patchell, M.D., University of Kentucky Chandler Medical Center neuroscientist and inventor of the device. "Our studies are preliminary, but we've seen some long-term survivors, which is unusual for this kind of cancer."

More than half of the patients who contract a malignant glioma live less than one year, despite aggressive treatment with surgery, radiation therapy and intravenous chemotherapy, Patchell said. Intravenous chemotherapy often causes severe toxicity, so patients cannot be given enough of the drug to have effective results. In addition, many anticancer drugs cannot cross the blood-brain barrier in concentrations high enough to kill the tumor. When drugs do get into the brain, they only remain active for a few hours -- not enough time to destroy the tumor.

By running the tube directly into patients' tumors, Patchell has been able to eliminate side effects normally associated with chemotherapy, such as nausea, hair loss and fatigue. The survival rates of patients who have tried Serodur is even more impressive.

"Most patients with recurrent gliomas live two or three months," Patchell said. "We've had some patients live three years."

Two drugs currently are being studied for their effectiveness against the cancer. One drug, Bleomycin, is administered to patients with newly diagnosed malignant gliomas that have been treated with surgery and radiation, but not chemotherapy. The second study is an early phase trial of the drug Adriamycin in the treatment of recurrent high grade gliomas. Patients in this trial already have had radiation therapy, and may have received other treatments, including chemotherapy.

The early results are promising, but Patchell stressed that the studies are preliminary.

"The next step is to try Serodur on a large sample of patients to validate our preliminary results," Patchell said. "I can't really say it's an effective treatment yet, but we have shown that we can shrink a patient's tumor and give them prolonged, quality life."

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