Ultrasound energy to help chemotherapy
SonoCloud opens a physiological barrier to enhance the passage of drug molecules into the brain. A major step forward in making brain tumour therapy more effective.
Gliomas, glioblastomas, astrocytomas… many different types of primary or secondary brain tumours are affecting over 250,000 people every year in Europe and the USA.
The effectiveness of treatments is still rather low, since chemotherapy penetrates the brain to a very limited extent only. This is due to the blood-brain barrier, a natural barrier preventing substances present in the blood from passing into the brain.
The French start-up CarThera has tackled the problem. It’s implantable SonoCloud device, fixed to the skull, emits ultrasound that temporarily opens the blood-brain barrier, which makes intra-cranial vessels more permeable to chemotherapy.
SonoCloud is activated during chemotherapy sessions with the help of a transdermal delivery needle linked to an external generator (equipped with a LEMO solution). The emitted ultrasound, with no bone obstacle to break through, passes directly into the brain and opens the blood-brain barrier. Drug molecules (administered intravenously) can then pass through the barrier in the targeted area and penetrate the brain more efficiently.
For the first time, it is possible to open the barrier upon request, repeatedly and in ambulatory care.
It is not even necessary to open the skull expressly to implant SonoCloud. A biopsy, or the surgical removal of a brain tumour requiring such an opening, can be the perfect opportunity to implant SonoCloud instead of replacing the bone flap or filling the drill hole.
Furthermore, brain tumours being diffuse, CarThera has aimed at creating the largest possible opening in the blood-brain barrier. Thanks to this technique it is possible to attain previously inaccessible tumour infiltration areas.
This major innovation is the result of Prof. Alexandre Carpentier’s research. This neurosurgeon and researcher is also the founder of CarThera and the chairman of its scientific board, since its creation in 2010.
The start-up works in close cooperation with the French Brain and Spinal Institute of the Pitié-Salpétrière Hospital in Paris. It is endorsed by an expert committee of neurosurgeons and neurological oncologists from prestigious French and American hospitals.
Many challenges had to be met, miniaturisation to start with. SonoCloud had to be biocompatible and absolutely safe for the patients. It also had to be able to withstand MRI (inevitable in brain medicine) but not interfere with its images. This is why its supply generator is external.
Currently in the clinical study phase, focusing on the glioblastoma (the most common brain tumour), SonoCloud opens the way to broader applications in the treatment of neurological or neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s. It should be released for sale by 2021 or 2022. For many patients, it will mean gaining precious months to live.