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Ethanol: A Lethal Injection For Tumors

Scientists have known for some time that ethanol can kill cancer cells, but several limitations held it back from becoming a broadly used treatment. A team at Duke University has recently developed a new type of ethanol solution that can be injected directly into a variety of tumors to potentially offer a new, safe, and cheap form of cancer treatment. From the article: The authors were already aware of a therapy known as ethanol ablation. If ethanol (the type of alcohol found in your favorite adult beverages) is injected into a tumor, it destroys proteins and causes the cells to dehydrate and die. Ethanol ablation is used to treat one type of liver cancer, and its success rate is similar to that of surgery. Better yet, it costs less than $5 per treatment. Ethanol ablation faces several limitations. First, it only works well for tumors that are surrounded by a fibrous capsule. Second, it requires large amounts of ethanol, which can damage nearby tissue as it leaks out. And third, it requires multiple treatments. To overcome these hurdles, the authors mixed ethanol with ethyl cellulose, creating a solution that when injected into the watery environment of a tumor turns into a gel, which remains close to the injection site. After they practiced injecting their solution into imitation tumors (what they called “mechanical phantoms”), the authors turned to a hamster model. The team induced the formation of oral cancer (specifically, squamous cell carcinoma) in hamster cheek pouches by rubbing them with a carcinogen called DMBA. After about 22 weeks, tumors (without capsules) formed. In the control group, tumors were injected with pure ethanol. The results were not good. After seven days, 0 of 5 tumors regressed completely. (Tumors injected with a large amount of ethanol — four times the volume of the original tumor — performed better: 4 of 12 regressed completely.) The results for the ethanol gel were far superior. After seven days, 6 of 7 tumors regressed completely. (By the eighth day, all 7 tumors were gone, for a cure rate of 100%.)

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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