“Phoenix” helps to treat bone cancer without reducing bones’ strength

TSU scientists recently tested a device for the treating cancer in the soft tissues and bones – Phoenix-2, developed by the Tomsk State University of Control Systems and Radioelectronics (TUSUR) team. It reduces the dose of a chemotherapy drug needed by 50%, while the inhibition of metastasis growth is tripled, and remission is doubled. TSU scientists have demonstrated that when using the Phoenix-2, bone strength is preserved, and therefore there is no threat of fractures.

One of the Phoenix developers is Denis Pakhmurin, associate professor at TUSUR, who collaborates with scientists from the TSU Laboratory of Medical Materials. Such joint projects contribute to the project Big University, in which Tomsk universities and research institutes coordinate their scientific and educational opportunities. Big University will help utilize the entire infrastructure of the Tomsk scientific and educational complex to implement world-class projects.

At the moment, the device is used in the Oncology Research Institute of Tomsk Scientific Research Center, and 10 patients have already received treatment. Director of the Research Institute of Oncology, Evgeny Choynzonov, noted positive results, for example, in a 58-year-old patient whose tumor in the left humerus has been completely absent for 7 months.

The Phoenix-2 complex can be used for damage to soft tissues and bones. The device acts on the tumor by heating: direct current circulates through the heater without passing through the patient, who is affected only by heatwaves.

Phoenix-2 provides heating of the tumor at any depth and in strictly limited areas, suppressing its focus and metastases. When exposed to soft tissues, heating at + 45-46°C (hyperthermia) is used, and the patient can undergo outpatient treatment. In the treatment of bone cancer, the temperature of + 60°C and above (thermal ablation) is required; in this case, the exposure occurs during surgery.

- Currently, when bone tumors are treated, either the bone is cut off and a prosthesis is placed, or a piece of bone is cut off, autoclaved (heated in a container with high temperature and pressure) and connects to live bone, - Denis Pakhmurin explained. – Literally, before New Year, there was an operation at the Oncology Research Institute for which the area of impact was 22 cm. If this is cut, autoclaved, and put back, it means that almost all the bone is removed. Our method enables, effecting the patient during surgery without removing the bone. All anatomical structures are preserved, so subsequent regeneration should take place more simply.

Scientists from the TSU Laboratory of Medical Materials are assisting the authors of the project determine how the use of the new device affects the strength characteristics of the bone.

- A normal bone is strong—it has structures that can withstand a large load and form a certain flexibility of the bone. If there is a tumor, a defect in the tissue, a cavity, appears, and the strength of the bone is decreased accordingly. We were interested in whether there will still be bone weakening if we continue heating, - explained Sergey Kulkov, head of the TSU Laboratory of Medical Materials, professor at the Institute of Physics and Mathematics SB RAS.

TSU scientists conducted a series of experiments on animal bones, and the first results demonstrate that Phoenix-2 does not adversely affect bone strength. That is, subject to a sparing regime, there is no threat of fracture. Now experiments on its effects on the mechanical properties of bones continue.