Virginia Tech researchers attack cancers, Parkinson’s with electrical fields

Funding has been approved for Virginia Tech’s research on electrotherapy, a process that attacks brain cancer and tumors associated with Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy.

Virginia Tech researchers are enabling doctors to treat brain tumors once considered inoperable using irreversible electroporation. Irreversible electroporation, developed by Virginia Tech Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics Rafael Davalos and his team, opens a cancer cell’s pores using low-level electrical pulses, which allows for medicine to be better received by the cell.

This new process is also suited to destroy brain tumors and can potentially prevent patients from suffering through chemotherapy. Irreversible electroporation has been successful in treating more than 6,000 patients suffering from liver, kidney, pancreatic, and prostate cancer.

“Anyone who has lost a loved one from cancer understands the importance of this breakthrough,” said Theresa Mayer, vice president for research and innovation at Virginia Tech. “We cannot prevent cancer, but we are developing the weapons that allow us to defeat it. We are improving the human condition.”

More than $1.1 million was approved by the Virginia Research Investment Committee to support the applied research and development needed to treat brain cancer and progress this innovative technology toward commercial products. The award is in partnership with Virginia Tech, University of Virginia associate professor Wilson Miller, and Blacksburg-based start-up company, VoltMed, Inc. VoltMed was co-founded by Davalos, Virginia Tech assistant professor Christopher Arena, and Virginia Tech alumni Michael Sano and Paulo Garcia, with significant contributions from Eduardo Latouche.

“We are fortunate to have a strong team between the universities and VoltMed to get our technology to the patient,” said Davalos.

The project will be conducted with John Rossmeisl, professor of neurology and neurosurgery at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech. The college’s clinical research program involves both primary research focused on advancing the treatment and diagnosis of diseases through animal clinical trials and comparative research in which spontaneous diseases in animals can be used as models of human disease.

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