Treating Brain Tumors – Without Surgery
Ambience: shaving horse, operation sounds
Davalos: You need to shave the area; the veterinarian does that. And then you just deliver the electrical pulses using this probe.
The patient is a horse a horse with a tumor. A new procedure for treating tumors without surgery is being tested on horses and dogs and in the future, it may well change the way that cancerous tumors are treated in people. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.
Davalos: Essentially the most painful aspect of the surgery is delivering the anesthesia through a syringe.
That’s Rafael Davalos, an associate professor of biomedical engineer at Virginia Tech. He tells us that once the animal patient is given a local anesthetic, two electrodes are placed near the tumor to deliver pulses of electricity that kill the tumor. It works by interfering with the way that cells take in nutrients to produce the energy that keeps them alive.
Davalos: All cells they have a voltage drop that occurs across the cell membrane and this is what allows things to be driven into and out of the cell membrane That difference in electricity controls what ions come into the cell and what ions are going to leave the cell. That’s one of the main mechanisms that keeps cells alive. Keeps them in natural balance.
Healthy cells can withstand the electrical pulses, but the pulses kill the cells in the tumor.
Davalos: The malignant cells are a little bit more susceptible to these electrical pulses, but it’s primarily getting those probes as close to the malignant cells as you can. So – putting it right in the heart of the tumor.
These canine patients that come in have essentially no options when they come in with a brain tumor. They typically have only a few weeks to live. We’re giving these canine patients a chance. It’s really a powerful feeling to try to do something that you feel like you’re helping in a small way.
Human trials for the procedure could begin within the next two years. Pulse of the Planet is made possible in part by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.