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Therapy at the UKM
44-year-old fights brain cancer with nano Trojans

“I decided to fight - for my family and me!” Tanja Jäger received a devastating diagnosis in August of last year: a glioblastoma in the anterior frontal lobe. According to a press release from the University Hospital Münster (UKM), glioblastomas are among the most common and at the same time most malignant brain tumors in adults. The prognoses for cancer, which is considered to be almost incurable, are very poor.

Giving up was still out of the question for the 44-year-old. Not even when the tumor began to grow again in January after surgery and subsequent radiation therapy. In her search for further treatment options, she came across the so-called "NanoTherm" therapy and came to the UKM's brain tumor center for it.

Tumors often return

"Glioblastomas almost always come back - mostly in the immediate vicinity of the old tumor," says Dr. Michael Schwake, senior physician at the Neurosurgery Clinic there. "The aim of treatment is to prevent these so-called recurrences for as long as possible and to enable those affected to have a longer life while maintaining quality of life."

In the "NanoTherm" therapy, tiny iron oxide spheres are injected into the malignant tissue as Trojans in nano size or - as with Tanja Jäger - "glued" directly into the affected area during the operation to remove the tumor as completely as possible. These particles can then be activated during six one-hour sessions by an externally applied, rapidly changing magnetic field.

The principle works similarly to an induction cooker.

Dr. Michael Schwake

They start to vibrate and the resulting friction generates heat. This is intended to either destroy the tumor cells or to sensitize them to additional treatment approaches such as radiation or chemotherapy. “The principle works in a similar way to an induction cooker,” explains Schwake. "The magnetic field only heats the metal to around 45 degrees Celsius," says the neurosurgeon. In the neighboring healthy tissue, the temperature increases only insignificantly.

"With heat therapy, we still have no cure for glioblastoma," emphasizes the doctor. "Rather, it is an additional treatment option if the standard therapies alone no longer achieve the desired effect." However, it is only considered for certain patients. Although the method is approved, the health insurance companies only pay for the treatment in individual cases. In addition, before starting therapy, all metal implants and dental fillings must be removed or replaced within a safe distance of around 40 centimeters.

The diagnosis of 'brain tumor' and the subsequent therapies are often very stressful for those affected.

Private lecturer Dr. Dorothee Wiewrodt

"The diagnosis of 'brain tumor' and the subsequent therapies are often very stressful for those affected," says Schwake's colleague, private lecturer Dr. Dorothee Wiewrodt, neurosurgeon and psycho-oncologist at the brain tumor center. "Ms. Jäger has mobilized all her strength and in the past few weeks has endured surgery, radiation and NanoTherm therapy as well as the isolation that has meanwhile been necessary due to poor blood values," said Wiewrodt.

The strict visiting regulations in times of the corona pandemic are an additional burden for many patients. "In order to be close to me, my husband and my 13-year-old daughter stayed in a holiday apartment in Münster, but were not allowed to visit me in the meantime," says Jäger, who comes from the high-risk area of ​​Heinsberg, of all places.

Family as an important support

“The family is my most important support”, she is relieved that she is feeling so well again immediately after the end of therapy that she can return to her husband and daughter and is already making plans for hiking tours together in the nearby Eifel.