Medical science may be closer to winning the fight against brain cancer.
Doctors completed the sixth successful procedure of a revolutionary brain cancer treatment. It forgoes traditional methods and administers Genentech's chemo drug, Avastan directly into the tumor.
"We've seen great efficacy in our patients, and that's what makes it so exciting," said Dr. John Boockvar, New York - Presbyterian/Weill Cornell, told CNBC on Wednesday.
Glioblastoma, the tumor that took the life of Massachusetts Senator Edward Kennedy, afflicts men mostly in their mid-life. Some 10,000 new cases occur each year.
Treating brain tumors has traditionally been a challenge for doctors since the blood-brain barrier, a natural defense mechanism, keeps most drugs out. "The brain doesn't trust us individuals and the toxins that we envive and take in are prevented from getting into the brain through this barrier," said Boockvar, who is also the co-director of the Brain & Spinal Tumor Program.
And since the tumor cells constantly divide, it has been especially difficult to treat the cancer in the past. "You can take the tumor out and in a couple days the cells are dividing and dividing until it regrows," said Boockvar.
Doctors have now devised a way to breakdown that barrier from the ephemeral artery into the brain.
"With those technologies, and these are hair-thin catheters, we can get to the doorstep of the tumor," he said. "I can get a 50-fold concentration boost to the tumor and spare a patient systemic or side effects from the intravenous or traditional routes."
Despite the success of early testing, however, Boockvar advocates considering multiple therapies in the treatment of this disease.
"If you have a hornets nest, and you want to kill all the hornets and you spray the nest, some of those hornets will get out before they're killed by the spray," he said. "We have a spray, and now we need to get an additional treatment that may prevent those hornets from coming back. That may require a second agent."