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Cold atmospheric plasma provides new hope for brain cancer treatment

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Cold atmospheric plasma provides new hope for brain cancer treatment

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE) showed that cold atmospheric plasma and chemo therapy together can eradicate brain cancer due to a synergistic effect. Experiments conducted so far have shown that this new combined treatment could destroy glioblastoma cells (even the most resistant cell populations that are sensitive to chemotherapy). This is clearly a breakthrough in oncology and could represent a new hope in the fight against this cancer.

Glioblastoma is one of the most common and aggressive primary brain tumors with a poor prognosis. The average length of survival is about one year, although there have been studies that have shown that combination therapy including radiation and chemotherapy can increase survival time to 15 months. Nobody knows exactly what causes this type of cancer (it seems that there are involved some genetic factors, radiation, smoking, viruses, certain chemicals), and it was found to occur more frequently in men. Treatment includes chemotherapy, radiation and surgery, but most times it is a palliative treatment meaning it is aimed only to relieve symptoms, not to cure cancer. There are situations in which, although initially the treatment was successful, though there is a high relapse rate.

Brain Tumor

Brain Tumor

But now a recent therapy could offer new hope in the fight against glioblastoma. CAP, which means cold atmospheric plasma,  has been shown to have multiple applications in medicine, such as sterilization, disinfection, and anticancer properties. CAP, a partly ionized gas, inactivates viruses, bacteria and parasites without harming healthy tissue in any way. Julia Zimmermann, who Manages the Plasma Healthcare Group at MPE, said that for many patients the standard treatment is not effective, because tumors contain subpopulations of cells that are resistant to chemotherapy. She added that their goal was to see if the CAP is effective against these resistant tumor cells.

The researchers tested various combinations of treatments on glioblastoma cells that were grown in cell culture dishes. It was found that in both normal cells and the resistant cells, growth inhibition was stronger after plasma treatment compared to chemotherapy alone. The researchers found that the strongest effect was obtained after application of 120 seconds and that CAP blocks the cell cycle and inhibits cell property to clone. What is interesting is that so far no resistance has emerged against CAP. “It is a first step, now we have to further investigate the effects gained in the cell culture and integrate them for the application,” she said.