Researchers at the University of Surrey and Dalian University of Technology in China have developed a novel way to combat cancer. The teams have created a series of nanoparticles that can heat up and kill cancerous cells, while self-regulating themselves so that they don’t damage any nearby healthy cells.
Operating between 42°C and 45°C (113°F), the nanoparticles are activated via the use of external magnets in a process called “magnetic induced hyperthermia”. Though magnetic induced hyperthermia is a traditional procedure used to treat malignant tumors, they often require the use of temperature monitoring and control systems. However, these newly developed nanoparticles have the ability to automatically lower their own temperature if they reach levels above the 45°C upper limit. This ensures that the nanoparticles don’t damage nearby cells, and only actively attack cancerous material. This also means that doctors can forgo external monitoring equipment, all whilst being sure that they’re not doing additional damage to a patient’s body as they undergo treatment.
Composed of Zn-Co-Cr ferrite, the nanoparticles also have the distinct advantage of being low in toxicity. This means that if and when a patient is treated and cured of their cancer, there won’t be any foreseeable long-lasting effects. Though the procedure and its use of nanoparticles may be cutting edge and futuristic, it builds on a long tradition of using heat to battle illness. Ancient Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians used heat to treat breast masses, and it’s still a recommended treatment today.
Though the nanoparticles have just been invented, hopefully, their application with pre-existing magnetic induced hyperthermia treatments means we’ll see them being used in hospitals as soon as possible.