Powerful magnets that cause cancer cells to ‘self-destruct’ could offer targeted treatment for tumours

By Anna Hodgekiss

PUBLISHED:06:40 EST, 8  October 2012| UPDATED:10:02 EST, 8 October 2012

Magnets  that cause tumours to ‘self-destruct’ could be a revolutionary new weapon in the  fight against cancer.

Scientists  in South Korea have developed the method, which uses a magnetic field to trigger  the cells to effectively kill themselves.

The  researchers have demonstrated that the process works in bowel cancer cells and  living laboratory fish.

They  now plan to test the technique on a range of cancers to see if it can destroy  other tumours.

 Fighting cancer: The breakthrough treatment triggers the diseased cells to effectively commit suicide, blasting away the cancer from within

Fighting cancer: The breakthrough treatment triggers the  diseased cells to effectively commit suicide, blasting away the cancer from  within.

 

Programmed  cell death, or apoptosis, as it is known, is one of the body’s ways of getting  rid of old, faulty or infected cells.

In  response to certain signals, the doomed cell shrinks and breaks into fragments.  These are then engulfed and consumed by amoeba-like immune cells.

But  with cancer, this cell-death process often fails, so cells are allowed to keep  dividing uncontrollably.

The  new magnetic therapy involves creating tiny iron nanoparticles attached to  antibodies – proteins produced by the body’s immune system when it detects  harmful substances.

These iron nanoparticles then bind to the molecules on tumour cells.

When  the magnetic field is applied, the molecules cluster together, automatically  triggering the ‘death signal’.

The  process raises the hope of new targeted treatments that could kill tumour cells  resistant to the usual process of cell death.

Reducing the risk: Recent research found an estimated 22,000 cancer cases could be avoided by maintaining a healthy weight

Reducing the risk: Recent research found an estimated  22,000 cancer cases could be avoided by maintaining a healthy weight.

 

In  the South Korean research, bowel cancer cells were exposed to the nanoparticles  and placed between two magnets.

More  than half the exposed cells were destroyed by magnetic activation, whereas no  untreated cells were affected.

The  research is published in the journal Nature Materials.

Henry  Scowcroft, at Cancer Research UK’s science information manager, said: ‘This is  fascinating but extremely preliminary research.

‘These  Korean researchers have developed an antibody-based molecule that, when  activated by a magnetic field, can cause cancer cells to die in highly  artificial laboratory conditions and animal models.

‘There’s  a long way to go before it’s ready to test in humans, but research like this  shows just how ingenious scientists around the world are becoming in the quest  to beat cancer.’

However,  simply maintaining a healthy body weight could go a long way to preventing  cancer occurring in the first place.

A  report published last week by the World Cancer Research fund warned that more  than 22,000 cases could be prevented every year.

Excess  body weight raises the risk of a host of diseases including cancers of the  pancreas, breast, bowel, oesophagus, kidney, womb and gall  bladder.

However  the rates of people dying from cancer are predicted to fall by 17 per cent in  the UK by 2030, according to statistics released last month by Cancer Research  UK.

For  all cancers, 170 people in every 100,000 died from the disease in 2010. By 2030  it is predicted this will fall to 142 in every 100,000.

This  is largely due to earlier diagnosis and improved treatments, but also reflects a  reduction in smoking-related cancers leading to fewer deaths.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2214548/Cancer-cure-The-magnets-cause-cancer-cells-self-destruct.html#ixzz28m9AREQi Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

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