Cancer is a devastating disease that affects millions every year. Researchers and scientists spend countless hours and money on looking for cures. A team created a new device in 2014 that “lures” tumors, and this year, they won “breakthrough status” by the FDA.
What is this device? It’s officially called the Tumor Monorail, though it’s nicknamed the Pied Piper, because it lures cells away from a tumor, like the Pied Piper of the old story lured rats. The device specifically goes after glioblastoma, a very aggressive brain tumor. People suffering from this type of tumor rarely survive. The Tumor Monorail is a long, thin tube, with a reservoir that sits right under the scalp. By imitating the brain’s white matter, which is where a tumor usually grows, the cancerous cells are attracted up the tube and out of the brain. Trapped in the Tumor Monorail, the cells are killed by a toxic gel.
This is the first example of a treatment where cells are taken to the drug or device, and not the other way around. Normally, cancer treatment is extremely tough on the body because healthy cells are damaged and killed in the treatment process. Not so with the Tumor Monorail.
Thus far, this Pied Piper device has only been tested in rats, where the spread of tumors was significantly inhibited, and the tumors even shrank by over 90%! By getting the FDA’s breakthrough status, the team will hopefully be able to speed up the process of starting tests on humans. When they do test the device, researchers will remove the toxic gel part, because they believe it would slow down FDA approval. They’re hoping to get that approval for human testing by the end of this year.
It will most likely be a while before we see the Tumor Monorail used in the real world, but it has the potential to make a huge impact on patients with serious brain cancer.