The delivery of drugs to the brain has been a problem for doctors for a long time. So good is the blood-brain barrier at its job preventing harmful things such as pathogens from entering the brain, that it also stops medicine from getting through too. This has been a major issue for the treatment of diseases such as brain cancer in delivering drugs to the tumors.
Incredibly, scientists claim that they have created a reformulated liquid aspirin that “significantly” increases the ability of drugs to cross the blood-brain barrier, though they are yet to publish a paper. The research, to be presented at the “Brain Tumours 2016 – From Biology to Therapy” conference in Warsaw, Poland this week has been described by some as “a potential game-changer”. It has been developed by researchers from the Brain Tumour Research Centre of Excellence at the University of Portsmouth, in collaboration with Innovative Pharmaceuticals.
The blood-brain barrier has been notoriously difficult to breach with drugs, due to the structure's highly selective permeability. This means that normally the barrier, which separates the circulating blood from the brain fluid, only allows certain molecules through in a tightly controlled manner, mainly water, gasses, and lipid-soluble molecules, as well as actively moving glucose and amino acids. This poses the massive problem of getting drugs to where they are needed in patients with brain cancer.
Last year, however, a massive breakthrough was made. Scientists found that by using ultrasound, they can actually breach the barrier for long enough to allow chemotherapy drugs to enter the brain. The procedure, which uses the injection of microbubbles that then expand at a rapid rate when high-intensity ultrasound is focused on them, leaves the barrier intact when the procedure is complete. But this new research seems to suggest that others may have found a way to do this with drugs alone.
“This is a potential game-changer for research into brain tumours and clearly shows what sustainable research is able to achieve,” says Sue Farrington Smith, the Chief Executive of the charity Brain Tumour Research. “It is science like this that will enable us to eventually find a cure for this devastating disease, which kills more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer.”
The new drug, called IP1867B, is a reformulation of aspirin along with two other ingredients. Liquid aspirin was never truly soluble, they claim, as it continued to contain grains. The researchers now maintain that they have solved this. A word of caution needs to be taken though, as there is currently no peer-reviewed paper in sight, so no confirmation that what they claim has been achieved. We shall have to wait and see if it rings true.