April 3, 2013
New Breakthrough Cancer Treatment Has No Side Effects
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
Scientists have developed a new form of radiation therapy that successfully put cancer into remission in mice.
The new treatment did not produce any harmful side effects typically seen with conventional chemo and radiation cancer therapies. The team says clinical trials in humans could begin as soon as funding is secured.
“Since the 1930s, scientists have sought success with a cancer treatment known as boron neutron capture therapy (BNCT),” said University of Missouri Curators´ Professor M. Frederick Hawthorne, a recent winner of the National Medal of Science awarded by President Obama in the White House. “Our team at MU´s International Institute of Nano and Molecular Medicine finally found the way to make BNCT work by taking advantage of a cancer cell´s biology with nanochemistry.”
Cancer cells grow faster than normal cells, and they absorb more materials than normal cells as well. The team took advantage of this by getting cancer cells to take in and store a boron chemical they designed. When the cells were exposed to neutrons, the boron atom shattered and selectively tore apart the cancer cells.
The physical properties of boron are what helped make the technique possible. When a particular form of boron captures a neutron, it splits and releases lithium, helium and energy. The helium and lithium atoms penetrate the cancer cells and destroy it from the inside without harming the surrounding tissues.
“A wide variety of cancers can be attacked with our BNCT technique,” Hawthorne said. “The technique worked excellently in mice. We are ready to move on to trials in larger animals, then people. However, before we can start treating humans, we will need to build suitable equipment and facilities. When it is built, MU will have the first radiation therapy of this kind in the world.”
The team reported on their discovery in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The American Association for Cancer Research reported last week the number of cancer survivors will increase by 31 percent to 18 million in the US by 2022, compared to the 13.7 million survivors currently.
“The increase in the number of survivors will be due primarily to an aging of the population. By 2020, we expect that two-thirds of cancer survivors are going to be age 65 or older,” said Julia Rowland, PhD, director of the Office of Cancer Survivorship at the National Cancer Institute, a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), in a statement.