Brain tumour

A new type of treatment for brain cancer shows promise

Thursday 03 Jun 21


Ming Zhang
PhD student
DTU Health Tech


Yi Sun
Groupleader, Associate Professor
DTU Health Tech
+45 26 67 39 98


This work was supported by the Villum Foundation, Denmark (Project No. 13153) and National Natural Science Foundation of China, Basic Science Center Program (51988102).

Researchers at DTU Health Tech have developed a functional nanoparticle for treating Glioblastoma – brain cancer.

Glioblastoma Multiforme is a very aggressive type of cancer that begins within the brain. Glioblastoma is considered one of the most malignant cancers in our central nervous system with a 5-year survival rate <10% and median survival of 15 months. Current treatment typically consists of surgery followed by radiation and chemotherapy, however, the tumour most often recur after treatment.

In EU, the average economic cost of a brain cancer case is €1.7 million, the greatest among any type of cancer. Thus, developing efficient treatment will be transforming for both patients and the healthcare system.

A nanoparticle with multiple functionalities

At DTU Health Tech, the work has taken place in Associate Professor Yi Sun’s research group. Delivering drugs across the blood-brain-barrier that protects the brain from harmful substances is a major challenge. Together with colleagues from Professor Benzhong Tang’s research group at The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, they have succeeded in developing a multi-functional nanoparticle that can penetrate the blood-brain-barrier and effectively battle Glioblastoma Multiforme by near infrared-induced photothermal therapy.

Associate Professor Yi Sun elaborates, “We utilized a Bradykinin ligand targeting the Glioblastoma-specific receptors to selectively and transiently disrupt the Blood-Brain-Barrier, which enhanced transportation and accumulation of nanoparticles inside the tumour. We also encapsulated aggregation-induced emission molecules in the nanoparticles. These molecules exhibited high photothermal conversion efficiency upon irradiation with 980 nm laser, enabling elimination of deep-seated tumours.”

In the study, the researchers were able to inhibit the tumour progression and extend the survival spans of mice with Glioblastoma Multiforme using spatiotemporal photothermal therapy. Photothermal therapy is a procedure that essentially kills tumour cells by heat in a process where light energy is converted into heat on near-infrared irradiation. I.e. the multi-functional nanoparticles are activated when they are exposed to NIR laser, and kill the cancer cells.

Further work needed to move towards clinical translation

“The next step is to further optimize the design of the nanoparticles, and carry out studies on different animal models to investigate the possibilities of clinical translation.  We also believe that besides brain tumours, our results could also expand therapeutic opportunities for other neurological disorders, such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease and neuro-infections”, Associate Professor Yi Sun finishes.

Read the full paper in Advanced Materials here:

(Photo: Shutterstock)

The Blood-Brain-Barrier

A network of blood vessels and tissue that is made up of closely spaced cells and helps keep harmful substances from reaching the brain. The blood-brain barrier lets some substances, such as water, oxygen, carbon dioxide, and general anesthetics, pass into the brain. It also keeps out bacteria and other substances, such as many anticancer drugs. Also called BBB.

Source: National cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health

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