Future breast cancer patients facing a difficult-to-treat form of the disease may have new hope in an innovative treatment being devised by our researchers.
A team of experts from Sunnybrook's Odette Cancer Centre - with a $1-million boost from the Breast Cancer Society of Canada - is studying how combining microbubbles and ultrasound in pre-clinical models can make locally advanced breast tumours more responsive to chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
Locally advanced breast cancer is an aggressive form of the disease that is resistant to treatment and has an extremely high mortality rate within two years of diagnosis. These tumours, typically found in women between ages 35 and 45, are five centimetres or larger and grow at an astounding rate.
Sunnybrook research has found that the tiny microbubbles begin to bounce and expand when heated with focused ultrasound, straining the blood vessels of the tumour. The cancer cells become leaky and weak. When a tumour is targeted in this manner prior to radiation in pre-clinical models, there is significant enhancement of the radiation effect and tumour destruction.
"The $1-million boost from the Breast Cancer Society of Canada is going to allow us to scale up these treatments and move them out of the laboratory and into breast cancer patients in the next three to five years," says Dr. Greg Czarnota, radiation oncologist and lead on this research. "This is definitely a world first happening at Sunnybrook."