MedUni Vienna at the international forefront in the study of brain tumours
(Vienna, 10 June 2010) Tumours in the human brain are particularly difficult to treat because of their immediate vicinity to vital functional areas. Specialists from MedUni Vienna are very much in demand for the study of new diagnostic procedures and therapeutic approaches, of epidemiology and their implementation in clinical practice, a fact which was impressively underlined once again on World Brain Tumour Day and at the biggest international oncology conference ASCO.
In Austria around 1,700 primary brain tumours are newly diagnosed each year. The most common form of primary brain tumour in adults is the glioblastoma, for which a standard therapy used worldwide was able to be established in 2005 with the involvement of MedUni Vienna. With the introduction of this well-tolerated therapy the number of patients who are still alive two years after the diagnosis has been able to increase from 10% to 26%. This therapy is used for 18-65 year-olds and consists of an operation on the tumour tissue, most of which can be removed, and subsequent six-week combined radiation and chemotherapy followed by chemotherapy over six months. The chemotherapy is in tablet form, which generally means that outpatient therapy is possible.
But this treatment has not yet been examined sufficiently for around half of patients who, on average, are more than 60 years old because this age group has not been included in most studies so far.
At the ASCO a study has now been presented involving Univ. Prof.in Dr.in Christine Marosi, Department of Medicine I, and Univ. Prof.in Dr.in Karin Dieckmann, Department of Radiotherapy, which shows that in the age group of patients over 60 years old it is no worse to have less stressful two-week radiation therapy or solely chemotherapy than long radiation therapy. So for older patients the stressful long radiation therapy over six weeks is no longer necessary. These latest study findings are therefore highly relevant for daily neuro-oncological practice.
Two other studies at MedUni Vienna are currently dealing with the possibility of vaccination against brain tumours and the antiangiogenesis, i.e. the inhibition of vascularisation using medication to cut off the supply of nutrients to the tumours. This procedure seems to be very effective with malignant brain tumours and may lead to a further increase in "long-term survivors".
Top international level in diagnosis, therapy and research
The great importance of Austrian research is closely connected with the environment which is provided by MedUni Vienna. Diagnostic, therapeutic and research procedures at the top international level are possible here.
One current focus of brain tumour research is the study of the effect of antiangiogenic drugs using the 7-Tesla high-field MR tomograph which provides uniquely high-resolution images of the tumours and their vascularisation. The first results of these studies are being presented on 10 June 2010 as part of the 7-Tesla Symposium by Univ. Prof. Dr. Siegfried Trattnig, Professor of High-Field MR Research, and Priv. Doz. Dr. Matthias Preusser from Department of Medicine I. In November of this year the research findings will be presented on an international stage at the renowned conference of the European Association of Neurooncology (EANO).
In the field of epidemiology experts from MedUni Vienna are coordinating the Austrian brain tumour register and the EU-funded international project "MOBIKIDS" which studies the risk of brain tumours in children from the use of mobile phones.
In terms of therapy, one of the particular areas of expertise at MedUni Vienna/AKH Vienna is in the field of neurosurgery as operations are planned with routine use of multimodal imaging, fluorescence-guided brain surgery and intraoperative neurophysiological monitoring to maximise safety during operations.
With particular tumour locations there are also operations while the patients are awake, with the patients being woken while their cranium is open and speaking or carrying out motor activities during the brain surgery. This means the neurosurgeon knows which parts he/she can remove without harming the patients.