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Local chemotherapy in fat globules

Rotterdam and American researchers are working on an experimental chemotherapy treatment in which drug-filled fat globules are delivered to the tumor. The chemo will only work there.

Oncologists are aware of it, as are people who have had cancer: chemotherapy not only attacks the tumor, it also damages healthy parts of the body. This is why researchers are looking for ways in which the chemotherapy drugs can be delivered to the right place, i.e. only in the tumor.

Chemo in vatenThe first steps have been taken: wrapping the chemo in tiny globules, introducing them locally and then heating the globules so that they burst when in the tumor. In the photo the veins are yellow/green and the globules are red. They are on the verge of bursting.

Researcher Dr. Timo ten Hagen, biologist: “We heat the tumor to 42 degrees. The heat causes the fat globules to release the drugs within a few seconds. The speed with which this occurs is very important as the highest possible concentration of drugs must be administered as quickly as possible to the cells to kill the tumor cells.” 

The study has been running for five years and intends to identify the most effective treatment methods for individual patients. What does quickly mean, and what is the highest possible concentration? “This differs per patient, per tumor and per type of chemotherapy”, says Ten Hagen. “You have to ensure that the entire treatment process is well coordinated. This will give the best results.”

The new chemotherapy treatment is experimental and is not yet being administered to patients at Erasmus MC. The department of Surgical Oncology, together with Medical University of South Carolina, has been awarded a grant totaling USD 1.4 million by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to improve chemotherapy. 

Date published: 12 December 2014.

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