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February 19, 2019
‘Tumour Monorail’ on Fast Track for Human Trials
Pioneering device for treating cancers lures tumour cells out of the brain Pied Piper-style.
A biomedical device designed to lure tumour cells out of the brain Pied Piper-style has been awarded specialist breakthrough status by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Following successful trials in rats, the device, dubbed a ‘tumour monorail’, has been put on the fast track for human trials by the FDA.
A team at Georgia Institute of Technology have created a biomedical device to trick brain tumour cells into moving in a certain direction by luring them, Pied-Piper-style, out of the brain and away from harm. For the past five years they developing a device they call a ‘Tumour Monorail’ and after successful trials in rats have just been awarded breakthrough status by the US Food and Drug Administration.
The device is essentially a long, thin tube made of fine, flexible fibres that is fed through a narrow opening connecting the brain’s left and right hemispheres. It takes advantage of the fact that tumour cells spread through the brain along fibres of white matter – bundles of brain tissue that connect areas of grey matter together and carry messages between neurons. By providing them with an alternative pathway, it is able to lure cancerous cells out of the brain, preventing their spread into areas of healthy brain tissue.
“This was the first demonstration that you can engineer migration inside the body and move a tumour from point A to point B by design,” said Ravi Bellamkonda, the Vinik Dean of the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University, who began the research while at Georgia Tech. “It was also the first demonstration of bringing the tumour to your drug rather than your drug going into the brain and killing valuable cells.”