Cancelling cancer cells with new radiation

Israeli scientists find a way to generate millimeter rays and use them to render cancer cells incapable of reproducing.

Somewhere on the spectrum between electromagnetic waves that produce visible light, and those that cook food in a microwave oven, are millimeter waves that might hold the key to conquering cancer cells.

When tested in an Israeli lab on human lung-cancer cells, millimeter wave radiation knocked out the cells’ ability to reproduce.

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“It disrupts their activity, although we don’t yet know how beyond some speculation regarding the mechanism,” says Asher Yahalom, head of Ariel University Center’s Free Electron Laser (FEL) Laboratory User Center, who also noted that the rays seem to have no effect on normal cells.

Millimeter waves have lots of possible applications – everything from diagnosing skin cancer to improving communication devices – but the Israeli research team is the first in the world to study their effect on lung cancer.

Yahalom tells ISRAEL21c that until quite recently nobody had the tools to produce millimeter waves. The university’s FEL lab developed a free-electron laser that does this by accelerating electrons close to the speed of light and setting them on a wiggly trajectory.

“The question was what would be an application for this laser, and we thought about trying it for different things,” says Yahalom, currently a visiting fellow at the Isaac Newton Institute for Mathematical Sciences in Cambridge, England.

The Ariel team presented the dramatic results at November’s third International IEEE Conference on Microwaves, Communications, Antennas and Electronic Systems in Tel Aviv.

The researchers have collaborated on more in-depth studies with colleagues at a Danish university, funded by the Eva and Henry Fraenkel Foundation in Denmark.

Lung cancer cells, following irradiation with millimeter waves, cannot reproduce.
Lung cancer cells, following irradiation with millimeter waves, cannot reproduce.

“We are still gathering more data to be absolutely sure this effect is statistically significant and not due to any unrelated factors,” Yahalom says.

New approach to radiation therapy

A better alternative to x-rays has long been sought because although they kill cancer cells, they also kill healthy surrounding cells.

Millimeter radiation is an entirely different approach, says Yahalom.

“There are two kinds of radiation,” he explains. “Ionizing radiation is what is usually used for cancer. It has the ability to tear apart molecules, so it causes death to all cells. What we have done is quite different. Millimeter wave radiation is non-ionizing, so it may interrupt functionality but not the cell itself.”

Once the Ariel lab devised a way to source millimeter rays, physics Prof. Konstantin Komoshvili began the experiments on specially incubated lung-cancer cells in conjunction with Prof. Jacob Levitan, microwave and millimeter wave expert Prof. Boris Kapilevich, and molecular biologist Stella Aronov.

While the Israeli and Danish scientists check and double-check the results of their experiments using radiation sources that do not exist anywhere else in Israel, scientists in several countries are studying terahertz waves, which are a bit shorter than millimeter waves. Prof. Rafi Korenstein’s team from Tel Aviv University had previously looked at their effects on healthy white blood cells.

“We went the other way around — we wanted to see how the radiation affects non-healthy cells, and this is quite novel,” says Yahalom.

*Image via

About Abigail Klein Leichman

Abigail Klein Leichman is a writer and associate editor at ISRAEL21c. Prior to moving to Israel in 2007, she was a specialty writer and copy editor at a daily newspaper in New Jersey and has freelanced for a variety of newspapers and periodicals since 1984.
  • Nice Guy

    why bother, the FDA will use the word protocol to have you NEVER allow it to save people until they have exhausted every possible toxic caustic dangerous radiation, chemo, surgery that there is. Your procedure is too easy, too nontoxic too low cost..Don’t bother….you will end up studying it for ten years till you get tired and its forgotten, while cisplatin was probably approved IMMEDIATELY since there’s no way it could have been shown to be nontoxic to normal cells or even healthy people….so the FDA just let it be used as is….but your stuff…forget it… will be studied till its forgotten! The nontoxic cure for leukemia is NOT allowed to be given to children until after they get bone marrow transplant and cisplatin a few times…..why not reverse the procedure! Nope, it would not be good business sense to do it that way. Sickness is a business.

    • Michael99518

       Foriegn travel isn’t regulated by the FDA.
       I can travel to the backside of the earth from my home and save enough for dental work to pay for the trip easily. The local dentist said he’d have charged over 35K for work that cost me $3500. Same quality!

    • tsvieps

      I have lots of complaints about the FDA, but I find this characterization polarizing and offensive. There is a lot of damaging drugs and procedures approved for use and often the use is more harmful than the benefits. But there also long lists of approved treatments that are life saving with only small side affects. You mention leukemia…look up Gleevec.

  • Nice Guy

    I hope to see (never did yet) nontoxic harmless cures for cancer and other diseases approved by the FDA, but I can’t recall ever seeing ONE yet….but I have seen cisplatin and bone marrow transplant etc etc all approved even though there’s no way that they can ever be shown to be safe.

  • drouben

    Just amazing!

  • Muhammed Hassan Raheem

    it was a good article ,realy it gives hope to heal cancer , thanks a lot 

  • rj_shalom

    Awesome its really a great discoveries as there is a new hope for those diagnose with cancer. Great Israel 

  • rj_shalom

    Awesome a great discoveries in cancer. A new hope and relief for those who have been victimized by cancer. A dawn of a new hope. Salute to Israel R&D