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Researchers Test Ethanol as a Lethal Injection for Destroying Tumours

By Dr. Abdulla El Hossami and Dr. Adem Günes

In the developed world and rich countries, Cancer Therapy is expensive. On the other hand, in the developing countries, it may not be available at all. There is a lack of advanced technology available in the countries belonging to the developing world. Countries in the developing world are still witnessing short supply of medical personnel. Lack of important resources for basic healthcare is made more evident by the fact that rate of survival of a person diagnosed with cancer in the developing world is relatively lower than that of a person from the developed world.

In order to overcome this problem, non surgical treatments that do not require use of electricity and are cheap, portable and simple to use are highly required. Team of researchers at the Duke University have found that injecting an ethanol-based gel directly into “Squamous Cell Carcinoma” tumour, can result in a 100% cure rate using a hamster model.

Ethanol Abalation
Ethanol ablation used to treat a particular type of liver cancer was already known to the researchers. Injection of ethanol into a tumour helps in destroying proteins and results in dehydration and death of cells. With a success rate similar to that of surgery, it costs under 5$ per treatment. However, the therapy of ethanol ablation faces many limitations. Firstly, it works well for tumours surrounded by a fibrous capsule, secondly, it needs large quantity of ethanol to damage the surrounding tissue as it leaks out. Moreover, it needs several treatments.

To alleviate this problem, ethanol was mixed with ethyl cellulose to create a solution that turned the watery state of tumour into a gel which remained close to the injection site. After learning about “mechanical phantoms” which refers to injecting solution into imitation tumours, they turned to a hamster model.

The team induced formation of oral cancer by rubbing them with a carcinogen (DMBA) in hamster cheek pouches. On the other hand, when tumours were injected with pure ethanol in the control group, the results were not good since 0 of the 5 tumours regressed completely (Tumours injected with a large amount of ethanol- almost four times the volume of original tumour performed better with o4 out of 12 regressing completely). On the other hand, the results for the ethanol gel were far more better since after 7 days, 6 of 7 tumours regressed completely with a cure rate of 100 % on day 8 when all tumours disappeared.

Promising Results
The results were promising and the findings suggest that just a single injection of ethanol based gel may be enough to cure certain types of tumours. They mentioned that their technique could be applicable to some breast cancers and cervical precancerous lesions. Further, any technological advances in future on this subject by the research team will have applicability to both developing and developed world.

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