Scientists from Israel are developing a new way to destroy cancerous tumors that will have fewer side effects than traditional radiation therapy, and cause minimal damage to surrounding tissue.
The innovative method developed by a professor at Tel Aviv University uses heat to kill the tumor cells, while leaving the surrounding healthy tissue intact.
Today, radiation therapy is one of the most important weapons against cancerous tumors, but the therapy can have a significant impact on the health of a patient as it harms healthy tissue as well as malignant cells.
Patients often experience anything from nausea to hair loss, fatigue, skin irritation, and a lowered white blood cell count.
Prof. Israel Gannot, whose method is soon to be published in the journal Nanomedicine, uses a special mixture of nano-particles – already approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – and antibodies to locate individual tumors and bind directly to them.
A targeted rise in temperature
The specialized cocktail is administered safely and simply, through topical local injection or injection into the blood stream.
“Once the nano-particles bind to the tumor, we excite them with an external magnetic field, and they begin to heat very specifically and locally,” Gannot explains. The magnetic field is manipulated to create a targeted rise in temperature, and it is this directed heat elevation that kills the tumors, he says.
Once the treatment is completed, the nano-particles are washed out of the body naturally without leaving a trace, minimizing side effects.
So far, the treatment has been proven effective against epithelial cancers, which can develop in almost any area of the body, such as the breast or lung. By using a special feedback process, also developed in his laboratory, the process can be optimized for individual treatment.
Gannot claims the method is effective against almost any type of tumor, as long as its specific markers and its antibodies can be identified.
Recuperation at home
Aside from being minimally invasive, Gannot says that the treatment is also fast and efficient. The entire treatment lasts only six hours, and can be administered during an out-patient procedure, enabling patients to recuperate in the comfort of their own homes.
It’s early days yet, however. Gannot is currently applying his technique to cell lines and to ex vivo tissues and tissue-like substitutes in his lab, and plans to start in vivo experiments by next year.
If long-term clinical trials are successful, however, Gannot believes the technique could become a mainstay of patient care.