What makes the new treatment innovative is it delivers a very small dose of Avastin directly into the artery going to the affected part of the brain. The smaller dose should significantly decrease the serious and life-threatening side effects of the drug. Also, with the targeted delivery, a lot more of the drug will get to where it needs to go.
To make the drug more effective, Dr. Dashti uses a special technique to open the blood-brain barrier by infusing a mannitol sugar solution into the carotid artery. When this is done right before injecting the Avastin, a much larger amount of the drug can reach the affected brain tissue while minimizing drug exposure to the rest of the body.
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"I felt this was my best option," Coffey said. "And I was confident it was going to work."
MEDICATION YIELDS POSITIVE RESULTS
Coffey flew to Louisville to receive her single-dose treatment. In a 45-minute procedure, Dr. Dashti injected the Avastin into her brain through an artery in her leg and immediately began studying the effects.
It didn't take long for Coffey to see a difference.
"The headaches went away in a matter of weeks," she said. "I was able to go off my other medications and get back into the gym."
Her scans also told a positive story.
"The images showed great improvement in the area impacted by the necrosis," Dr. Dashti said. "We were very encouraged with what we were seeing."
STILL GOING STRONG — AND GETTING STRONGER
It's been a year since Coffey received her injection. She recently returned to Louisville for a follow-up exam. The headaches are now a distant memory, and her brain scans are showing further improvement. She said she's feeling great and is even back to training for another bodybuilding competition.
"Participating in the trial was the best thing I could have done," she said. "I've received tremendous care throughout. I feel like I have my life back."
Dr. Dashti said other patients in the trial also are seeing similar results.
"To this point, everyone who has received the Avastin has seen improvement in their condition," he said. "It's very exciting."
While the findings are encouraging, Dr. Dashti points out that the treatment is still a long way from becoming common practice.
"We studied a very small group of people, and we still have to determine if the benefits are long-term," he said. "Hopefully, we'll look to get funding for a larger, multicenter study in the future."
For now, he's excited about the possibilities.