One day, in the not too distant future, a cell phone app could provide you relief from a migraine.
The treatment for brain cancer could be as easy as wearing an electrical helmet while you go about your day. Alzheimer’s patients could curtail the disease with an outpatient procedure that places a pacemaker in the brain.
Those ideas are not science fiction – they are real procedures and real treatments that are being used and tested here in Columbus by some of the nation’s leading physicians in their fields.
Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s Disease and Addiction
Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) is like a pacemaker for the brain. Electrodes are surgically implanted into the area of the brain that is damaged or malfunctioning and then are given a regulatory amount of electric stimulation.
DBS has been effective in calming tremors in patients with Parkinson’s disease and interrupting the firestorm of electrical activity in epileptic patients. New studies are under way to test DBS on Alzheimer’s patients and those dealing with addiction.
“It’s a very exciting time, says Dr. Ali Rezai, director of the neuroscience program at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “As technologies are maturing, it’s important to leverage that technology” in the treatment of hundreds of diseases and ailments that are controlled by the brain, he says.
The medical center is working with the engineering department to perfect dental implants that interrupt the nerve signals that cause migraines: “Turn on the device via your cell phone and stop the headache,” says Rezai. The micro-implant is widely used in Europe, and more than two-thirds of the patients find relief from their migraines, says Rezai.
High Blood Pressure
If you have high blood pressure, you know how hard it is to control.
A new procedure shows promise in regulating out-of-control high blood pressure. It uses radiofrequencies to disable nerves near the kidneys. In people with hypertension, these renal nerves are hyperactive, raising blood pressure and contributing to damage of the heart, kidneys and blood vessels.
“This investigational procedure could be an attractive option for patients who are taking three to five different medications a day, often in high doses, but still don’t have their blood pressure under control,” says Dr. Mitchell J. Silver, interventional cardiologist at OhioHealth’s Riverside Memorial Hospital and lead physician in the study.
The technology is called renal artery denervation and it’s done by inserting a catheter into the renal artery to disrupt and destroy the offending nerves near the kidneys with radio frequency energy. OhioHealth’s Riverside Memorial Hospital is participating in a national research study on the effects of the technology called the Symplicity®Catheter System™. The procedure is not yet approved by the FDA but shows promise, Silver says, because European studies have “shown a durable blood pressure reduction out to three years” for patients.
It looks like a swimming cap connected to a backpack. What it does is target the most aggressive type of brain cancer, Glioblastoma, with electrical currents that kill tumors while leaving healthy tissue alone.
Brain cancer patients at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center are among the first in the country to be treated with the high-tech device that bombards the brain with electrical currents. The currents interrupt cancer cells’ ability to divide, causing shrinkage and cell death.
Patients wear the device as long as 18 hours a day and otherwise go about their daily activities. So far, the treatment seems just as effective as chemotherapy without serious side effects.
Glioblastoma is a cancer that is difficult to treat and is the most deadly form of primary brain tumor in the U.S.
“The things we’ve been doing for the past 50 years haven’t worked,” says Dr. Robert Cavaliere, assistant professor of neurology at OSU’s James Cancer Hospital. He is optimistic that this form of stubborn cancer has finally found its Kryptonite. “The tumors have never been exposed to this technology,” Cavaliere says.
No knives or scalpels are involved with this new technology, even if Cyberknife does sound as if it might be Dr. Who’s new alien-slaying gadget.
Cyberknife is a form of stereotactic radiotherapy (SR) whereby very high doses of radiation are delivered precisely to cancer tumors. While SR is used in many hospitals, Cyberknife is unique in that it delivers not one beam of radiation, but hundreds of beams from all different angles.
“By intersecting the beams,” says Dr. Douglas W. Widman, medical director for Columbus Cyberknife at Mount Carmel St. Ann’s Hospital, “you get a very concentrated dose of radiation” that is accurate to within 1 millimeter.
What’s more, and what makes Cyberknife a Cadillac in the field, is its ability to track the tumors in real time. Particularly in lung cancer patients, whereby the act of breathing alters the location of the tumor, Cyberknife, through sophisticated computerized imaging that drives an industrial robot, keeps the beams steadily and deadly on target. The radiation works to destroy the tumor while minimizing the damage to normal tissue.
“There’s no other machine that does that,” says Widman.
Cindy Gaillard is a contributing writer. Feedback welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.