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New Radiation Cancer Treatment Showed No Side Effects in Mice

Update Date: Apr 04, 2013 11:41 AM EDT

Current cancer treatments can be very effective when the cancer is caught in its early stages. Despite the effectiveness of treatments, such as chemotherapy, the side effects of these drugs are numerous and painful. According to an animal study, researchers used a new radiation therapy on cancer-stricken mice and found that there were no harmful side effects while successfully putting the cancer in remission in these rodents.

The study was headed by Professor M. Frederick Hawthorne from the University of Missouri Curators, who previously received the National Medal of Science awarded by President Barack Obama in February 2013. The research team used the knowledge that cancer cells tend to grow a lot faster than normal cells, and thus, they also absorb more surrounding materials. Hawthorne created a boron chemical that could be absorbed by the cancer cells in the body. The new boron-infected cancer cells can lead to the destruction of the cancer cells once they come into contact with neutrons. When the two entities meet, the boron atom present in the cancer cell shatters and effectively kills the cancer cell from within. This process does not harm any nearby normal and healthy cells. There were also no harmful side effects arising from this process.  

"Since 1930s, scientists have sought success with a cancer treatment known as boron neutron capture therapy (BNCT). 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," Hawthorne stated.

Hawthorne stated that the properties particular to boron played a significant role in getting these chemicals to effectively kill cancer cells in mouse models. The boron splits like pool balls when it comes into contact with a neutron, which causes it to release enough lithium, helium and energy to kill the cancer cells but not the other cells nearby.

"A wide variety of cancers can be attacked with our BNCT technique. The technique worked excellently in mice. We are ready to move on to trials in larger animals, then people. However, before we start treating humans, we ill need to build suitable equipment and facilities. When it is built, MU will have the first radiation therapy of this kind in the world," Hawthorne added.

Despite being optimistic regarding the future of the BNCT technique and what the possibilities it provides do for cancer patients, the radiation technology needs to be as effective in the two latter models before anything can be used, and there have been several studies in which the treatment worked only in mouse models. However, if the new radiation therapy can be effectively modified and designed for humans, cancer might become more easily treatable than ever before.

The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)

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