New drug delivery technology delivers medication directly to tumor site

August 15, 1997

Media Contacts: Sarah Goodwin, 404/727-3366 - sgoodwi@emory.edu
Kathi Ovnic, 404/727-9371 - covnic@emory.edu

Patients undergoing surgery for the most deadly form of brain cancer now have an alternative to traditional chemotherapy which normally follows their surgery. Neurosurgeons at Emory University Hospital are implanting chemotherapy "wafers" directly on the areas of the brain where glioblastoma multiforme tumors are removed.

The Food and Drug administration recently approved the use of the Gliadel Wafer as an alternative to traditional chemotherapy in treating glioblastoma multiforme(GBM). GBM is the most common and most deadly form of brain cancer, and can double in size approximately every 12 days. Even with aggressive treatment, the five-year survival rate for patients is only five and one-half percent.

Treatment for patients with GBM involves surgical removal of the tumor, followed by radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Intravenous chemotherapy does not always reach the brain efficiently, and doses high enough to kill cancer cells may also result in serious side effects to the patient as they travel through the body.

With this alternative treatment, the neurosurgeon places up to eight chemotherapy containing wafers directly on the area in the brain where the cancer was removed before closing the incision. The wafers erodes over three weeks, killing residual tumor cells.

"We found that the chemotherapy wafer not only decreased the level of side effects associated with traditional chemotherapy, it also increased the survival time of some of the patients by several weeks," said Jeffrey Olson, M.D., co-director of the Center for Neuro-Oncology at Emory's Winship Cancer Center, and a primary investigator in clinical trials of the wafer, and has used this form of therapy in selected cases for seven years.

Dr. Olson said. "Gliadel has shown its greatest value in cases that have failed other forms of therapy. While this new treatment won't cure these patients, it may lengthen their survival and make them more comfortable because of its few side effects."

Olson says the chemotherapy wafer is not an experimental treatment, but is an accepted and approved alternative to traditional chemotherapy. "It allows us to offer glioblastoma multiforme patients a more comfortable treatment option as well as a longer survival period," Olson said. For more information on Gliadel therapy, contact Judy Billingsly at the Winship Cancer Center at (404) 778-5376.

Emory University Hospital is a 587-bed adult tertiary care hospital. It is a component of Emory Healthcare, which also includes Crawford Long Hospital, The Emory Clinic and Emory-Adventist Hospital. Other major affiliates of Emory Healthcare are Egleston Children's Hospital and Wesley Woods Geriatric Hospital.

The Winship Cancer Center of Emory University is dedicated to providing leadership and excellence in all aspects of cancer, including patient care, education, and basic, translational and clinical research. Providing a professional community to allow interaction of all members, divisions and departments involved in cancer treatment or research, the Winship Cancer Center is part of Emory University's Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center.

For more general information on The Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center, call Health Sciences News and Information at 404-727-5686, or send e-mail to hsnews@emory.edu.

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