Every year there are more than one million new cases of breast cancer worldwide, which has made this condition the main neoplasm that affects women throughout the world. These figures led the World Health Organization (WHO) to establish Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, so that the general population takes precautionary measures in this regard.
In order to improve the treatment of breast cancer patients, Claudia Elizabeth and Adriana Leticia Vera Tizatl, students of the Center for Research and Advanced Studies (CINVESTAV), seek to revolutionize the way of administering chemotherapy from a novel technique that uses electrical pulsations.
Electro-chemotherapy is a procedure already used mainly in skin metastases. It consists of opening the pores in the cancerous cells using electrical pulses, so that medications can enter. Although the technique has been used for years in European countries for these skin lesions, so far there is no report of its application in deep tumors, such as breast cancer, so the proposal of Mexican students is innovative.
According to Claudia Elizabeth Vera Tizatl, a student of the Department of Infectomics and Molecular Pathogenesis of CINVESTAV, with electro-chemotherapy they seek to optimize the delivery of antineoplastic agents inside cancer cells. This method consists of forming pores or channels on the cancerous cell surface, thus favoring the massive entry of drugs.
With this method it is possible to reduce the dose of the drugs, in addition to targeting only tumor-generating cells, which can reduce the cost of therapy and minimize the sequelae of conventional chemotherapy.
Currently, the Vera Tizatl sisters perform in vitro tests from two-dimensional cell cultures of the three most common molecular types of breast cancer in Mexico. It consists of small Petri dishes where cultured cancer cells are placed on the surface of a crystal that has an indium tin oxide bath and at the same time serves as an electrode.
The protocol designed by the CINVESTAV researchers lies in applying eight electrical pulses to the cells, each with duration of 100 microseconds with a repetition frequency of one second, to be able to generate momentarily (microseconds) the opening in the cell membranes so that the drug can enter inside it.
“When applying the electrical pulses, pores are formed in the cell membranes by microseconds that allow a greater entry of drug into the cellular interior,” said Claudia Elizabeth Vera Tizatl.
For the in vivo application, Adriana Leticia Vera Tizatl, a student of the Bioelectronics Section of the Department of Electrical Engineering, performs a personalized method based on realistic computational models of the lesion to be treated, and establishes an optimal electrode configuration, based on needles, to have a precise coverage of the tumor tissue and a safety margin of surrounding cells, in order to make the treatment as efficient as possible.
This configuration of electrodes from needles is complemented by the analysis and processing of medical images of the lesion (digital breast tomosynthesis) to help, from computational calculations, locate the precise coordinates for the position of the needles based on the dimensions of the tumor. Once the calculations are done, the electrodes are inserted and the drugs injected.
For now, the sisters and students of Cinvestav are working on technological adjustments that will allow an adequate application of the procedure specifically aimed at breast tumors. One of the main adjustments is the design of deep-range electrodes, as well as the configurations of three-dimensional arrangements that simulate the tissues.
The interest in developing this type of technologies is due to the fact that the use of electro-chemotherapy in skin tumors, used both in humans and in veterinary use, has a high range of positive response (84.1 percent). However, its application has only been achieved in skin metastases derived from non-mammary tumors and only for palliative purposes, that is to say to reduce bleeding, ulceration and pain mainly, so its use in breast cancer could be very helpful for the treatment of this condition.
Source: Conexion Cinvestav