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Tiny Particles May Be Key to Future Cancer Treatments
By Daniel H. Rasolt
Posted: Thursday, May 29, 2008
(Defeat Diabetes® News) -- Magnetic nanoparticles may be a revolutionary new tool for fighting cancer. The nanoparticles, which are between three and several hundred nanometers (10^-9 meters), have the ability to carry cancer-fighting drugs directly into the blood stream. A recent German research group has investigated some specific abilities of these tiny particles.
The utilization of magnetic nanoparticles to battle cancer is as follows: the particles are "loaded" with cancer-fighting agents, then "the nanoparticles are released into the blood stream, where they move until they come under the influence of a targeting magnetic field which holds them on to the tumour - until the drug has released its active agent." Once the particles attach the drugs to the tumor, "an electromagnetic a.c. [alternating current] field heats up the accumulated particles so much that they destroy the tumour." Perhaps the most beneficial aspect of this process is that it does not destroy healthy tissue in addition to cancerous tissue (a major problem with chemotherapy). According to the study, the magnetic nanoparticle procedure has been successfully performed on animals, and are ready for further testing on human tissue.
Unfortunately, even with successful testing, this novel form of cancer treatment may be far off from general implementation. The reason is the high level of cost and technology required for the development of these drug-carrying magnetic nanoparticles. Efforts are being made to find more practical forms for development of these particles. "At present, the high technical effort connected with the use of helium-cooled magnetic field sensors is still standing in the way of using this method routinely in practice. In a joint project with Braunschweig Technical University supported by the Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the procedure is currently being transferred to a simpler technology based on fluxgate magnetometers."
The results of this research need to be viewed progressively. While it may be awhile before magnetic nanoparticles take a prominent role in cancer treatment, it's possible that this research will lead to a much more successful way of battling cancer. Sometimes the most profound medical and scientific discoveries are those that require time, research, and technology to catch up to their theoretical abilities.