It’s been a while since I’ve posted a regular Good News Friday post, so here is my latest installment.
Let’s start with some Israeli medical advances, which I haven’t written much about lately.
Researchers at Tel Aviv University found that immunotherapy with vaccines based on synthetic DNA may be an effective means of preventing brain metastases.
A new Tel Aviv University study has found that a known adjuvant – an ingredient used in vaccines that enhances the immune response – that contains synthetic DNA, may be an effective in preventing brain metastases in patients whose primary tumors have been excised.
The study was led jointly by Dr. Amit Benbenishty, Dr. Pablo Blinder, and Prof. Shmagar Ben-Eliyahu, in collaboration with Dr. Lior Mayo, Prof. Neta Erez, and Prof. Dritan Agalliu, and was published on March 28 in PLoS Biology.
According to Dr. Blinder, “Some 20-40% of lung, breast and melanoma cancer patients develop brain metastases, and current treatments for brain metastases are ineffective.”
“Surgery for removing primary tumors is usually essential, but the period immediately before and after the surgery requires that all chemotherapy and radiotherapy be stopped,” he added.
“This,” he explained, “creates a high potential for the initiation and rapid progression of deadly brain metastases.”
According to Dr. Blinder, the study showed that CpG-C, an adjuvant of synthetic DNA material, reduces the development of brain metastases when injected intravenously during that time frame.
“When the drug is administered systemically, it crosses the blood-brain barrier and works by activating microglia, the brain’s primary immune cells, to kill invading tumor cells,” he said.
Currently, patients are given preventative whole-brain radiotherapy to reduce brain metastases – which has multiple negative side effects.
The new treatment, however, “gets the immune troops ‘ready for combat,’ in both the brain and the rest of the body,” he explained.
According to Dr. Blinder, CpG-C could be administered to cancer patients several days before a primary tumor removal, and continuing a few weeks after the surgery.
“We were able to verify that this treatment does not disrupt tissue healing, which is important in the post-operative period,” Prof. Ben-Eliyahu said, adding that “the treatment does not seem to increase the risk of other common surgery-related complications, such as an exaggerated post-operative inflammatory response.”
This is an incredible discovery which has the potential to save thousands of lives and prevent unnecessary suffering to many more. Kol hakavod to the Tel Aviv University research team,. May their research and clinical trials bring huge success.
On a similar subject, specialists at Schneider Children’s Hospital in Petach Tikva successively removed a massive tumor in the skull via the nose:
Specialists at Schneider Children’s performed a 40-hour operation to remove a huge tumor in its entirety from the base of the skull through the nose
7-year-old Zoya lived with her mother in Russia, about an hour’s distance from the North Pole. She was recently diagnosed with a huge chordoma* tumor the size of a tennis ball located at the base of her skull and extending over the first two cervical vertebrae, which was pressing on the brain stem. This type of tumor is extremely rare appearing in only 1 in 10 million children. Doctors in Russia were unable to treat her and told them there was no way they could reach the tumor to remove it. Zoya’s mother did not give up her search until she found Dr. Amir Kershenovich, Director of the Neurosurgery Unit at Schneider Children’s, who told her that he could remove the tumor and save Zoya’s life.
The team of surgeons prepared intensively in advance of the operation to remove the tumor. Because its sensitive location presented a significant challenge, doctors readied for the possibility that the tumor might have to be removed through the nose, mouth or an incision at the back of the skull. To perform the complex, delicate and lengthy operation, the multidisciplinary medical team comprised skilled and experienced neurosurgeons, otolaryngologists, anesthetists, electrophysiologists, surgical nurses and intensivists.
Sunday, August 11th: The operation ensued over several consecutive days. Working side by side through long hours, the team headed by Dr. Kershenovich and Dr. Eitan Sudri, Director of the Nose and Sinus Unit in the ENT Department at Beilinson Hospital, together with anesthetists, Dr. Evelyn Trabkin and Dr. Konstantin Nikarsov, succeeded in removing most of the tumor after 19 hours straight.
A few hours later on Monday, the team led by Dr. Dennis Pushkov, senior neurosurgeon at Beilinson Hospital, affixed the skull to the neck in another 4–hour procedure. Three days later, surgeons continued the operation and after another 17 straight hours, succeeded in removing the remaining tissue of the tumor in its entirety.
A total of 40 hours of highly skilled and concentrated surgery was required to remove the growth from Zoya’s skull. Using delicate techniques and with great patience, physicians were able to reach all parts of the tumor and gradually excise it with a special device through the child’s nose. To everyone’s utter joy, and against the stacked odds, the team performed the procedure without the need to make an incision in the back of Zoya’s skull. The child recovered initially in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit after which she was transferred to the Surgery Department for follow-up observation and care. Zoya and her mother will shortly return home to Russia.
Zoya’s mother said emotionally, “I am deeply grateful to the team of doctors and nurses at Schneider Children’s, who succeeded in saving my daughter’s life.”
What a huge operation! So many hours and so many doctors and medical staff! Huge kol hakavod to the entire surgical team from Schneider who took part in this operation and saved Zoya’s life! Wishing refuah shlema to Zoya and may she return quickly to her normal childhood life.
And to finish this week’s post, here is a very heart-warming tale of generosity. The Israeli women’s lacrosse team competed last week in Israel against the Kenyan team. The Israelis noticed that the Kenyans weren’t playing as well as they should, and discovered that the visitors didn’t possess proper cleats (playing shoes). So what did the Israeli team do?
Kol hakavod to the Israeli lacrosse team! Besides your generosity and open-heartedness you have created a great Kiddush Hashem (sanctification of G-d’s name) in public. As the COO David Lasday said:
David Lasday, COO of the Israel Lacrosse Association, told JNS: “Our players, coaches, and supporters take pride in representing our country, using our sport as a way of building bridges and connections to Israel. They continue to inspire the world winning on and off the field.”
Well done too to the Kenyan team who played despite being at a disadvantage. Maybe they should call a replay and see who really wins on a properly level playing field! Meanwhile the Kenyan team played Belgium – and won!
And on those happy thoughts I wish you all Shabbat Shalom!