Health Team

Experimental procedure hopes to battle brain tumors

Posted November 30, 2009 5:30 p.m. EST
Updated November 30, 2009 7:07 p.m. EST

Brain cancer is one of the deadliest cancers because it is so difficult to treat. Doctors at New York Presbyterian-Weill Cornell are trying an experimental procedure that blasts the chemotherapy drugs directly onto tumors.

Lois Cole, 60, has a brain tumor called Glioblastoma. She is looking for more time and hopes the new experimental treatment will give it to her. Most people with her condition have 12 to 15 months to live, according to doctors.

“I’ve already reached my 11th month, and I’m hoping that this will offer hope to me and other people,” she said.

With the experimental procedure, doctors thread a small catheter in an artery from the groin up into the brain, which is guided to the tumor. One medicine breaks down what's known as the blood brain barrier. It's there to keep toxins out, like a protective gate.

“We open the gate, and we literally spray the chemotherapy agent onto the tumor,” said Dr. John Boockvar.

Doctors have reported seeing a positive response in some patients.

“MRI has shown that the tumors are shrinking,” Boockvar said.

There are risks including hemorrhage or seizure, but Cole said it's worth it.

“I am hoping it will elongate my life and give me the opportunity to do more things that I would love to do,” she said.

Doctors said they hope this will not only be a breakthrough for brain cancer, but for many neurological diseases.

The brain tumor procedure is part of the first phase of a clinical trial. So far, only six patients have had the treatment and doctors are still trying to make sure it's safe.