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article imageNew low-cost cancer treatment could kill tumors with ethanol

By Karen Graham     Sep 4, 2017 in Science
An ethanol-based gel can achieve a 100 percent cure rate when injected directly into squamous cell tumors. This low-cost easily administered cancer treatment could significantly improve outcomes in the developing world.
In the developed world, cancer treatment can be expensive, while in low-income countries, cancer treatments may not be available at all. Cutting-edge technology is sometimes in short supply, along with electricity and medical personnel.
There is a great need for inexpensive, uncomplicated, portable and preferably non-surgical treatments that do not require the use of electricity. Researchers at Duke University may have found the solution in a method of treating certain kinds of cancers using a simple expensive method that has proven to kill cancer cells.
Dr. Richard Guttler
Ethanol uses in cancer treatment — Limitations
It's not as if we haven't known that ethanol (the type of alcohol found in your favorite adult beverages) will kill cancer cells. But it does have several limitations that have kept it from being a widely used treatment. The treatment in question is called ethanol ablation. Ethanol is injected into a tumor, causing the cells to dehydrate and die.
At this time, ethanol ablation treatment is only used to treat certain types of liver and thyroid cancer, and it has a success rate on par with surgical intervention. The best part is it only costs less than $5.00 per treatment. However, ethanol ablation has a number of drawbacks.
First of all, the treatment only works with tumors surrounded by a fibrous capsule, and second, it requires large amounts of ethanol, raising the risk of the alcohol leaking out into surrounding healthy tissues. And thirdly, ethanol ablation requires numerous treatments.
Ethyl cellulose-ethanol forms a gel upon exposure to water. A 3% ethyl cellulose-ethanol solution ei...
Ethyl cellulose-ethanol forms a gel upon exposure to water. A 3% ethyl cellulose-ethanol solution either alone (0%) or in solution with 20%, 50%, 75% or 90% water.
Scientific Reports
A new method of cancer treatment
It took a bit of technological innovation, but the Duke researchers overcame the limitations of the old ethanol ablation method by mixing ethanol with ethyl cellulose, creating a solution that when injected into the watery environment of a tumor, turns into a gel, remaining close to the injection site.
Using a test and control group of hamsters, all were induced with a form of oral cancer (specifically, squamous cell carcinoma). The control group received the ethanol ablation treatment where ethanol was injected directly into the tumor. The test group had the gel solution injected into the tumors.
In the control group, positive results were identified only when large volumes of ethanol were used, and even then only four of 12 treated tumors regressed completely after eight days. On the other hand, the ethanol-gel test group showed remarkable results. After eight days, all seven tumors treated with the ethanol gel had completely disappeared.
After seven days  6 of 7 tumors regressed completely. By the eighth day  all 7 tumors were gone  for...
After seven days, 6 of 7 tumors regressed completely. By the eighth day, all 7 tumors were gone, for a cure rate of 100%.
Scientific Reports
Duke University researchers remind us the results while encouraging are still just an early proof-of-concept trial. The team's findings suggest that merely a single injection of their special ethanol-based gel may be sufficient to cure certain types of tumors and the technique may be applicable to some breast cancers and cervical precancerous lesions.
The research was published in the online journal, Scientific Reports, entitled, "Development of enhanced ethanol ablation as an alternative to surgery in treatment of superficial solid tumors."
More about Cancer, Ethanol, ethyl cellulose, Squamous cell carcinoma, Technological advances