Eliminating brain cancer at its source
Natalie Artzi • TEDxMIT
Glioblastoma is a lethal, aggressive brain cancer with a dismal median overall survival rate of 15 months, a number that has remained unchanged for decades. Treatment for this devastating disease involves surgical resection followed by chemotherapy and radiation therapy; however, tumor recurrence is inevitable as it is impossible to eliminate all tumor cells with current strategies. One of the biggest impediments to the development of more effective therapies is the low penetration of drugs to the brain when delivered systemically because of a very selective membrane, the blood-brain-barrier (BBB), that is designed to prevent more than 98% of the molecules from getting into the brain to protect it from pathogens. The Artzi lab at MIT and Harvard developed an adhesive hydrogel that can be sprayed or injected directly into the brain during surgery, eliminating the need to cross the BBB while enabling the local release of a cocktail of drugs and nanoparticles that activate the immune system. Their technology educates our body’s own immune cells to detect and kill cancer cells. The local delivery of the gel coats and attacks the tumor without causing harmful side effects and would only need to be administered once.