Monday, May 3, 2010

A New Cancer Treatment Therapy

A New Cancer Treatment Therapy

Parsa Shahbodaghi*

Cancer is defined as a disease that results from a cell in one’s body dividing abnormally. There are multiple events that could result in a cell becoming cancerous.  The first is that genes that normally promote cell division or proto-oncogenes mutate, meaning that their DNA sequences change so that these proto-oncogenes become cancerous oncogenes. The oncogenes then cause the cell to divide uncontrollably to form a tumor that could then spread to the rest of the body. Cancer can also arise from mutations in genes that are supposed to stop the cell from dividing, also known as tumor suppressor genes.  However, mutations in both proto-oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes are required for a cell to become cancerous. [1]

There are multiple genes that can become mutated and cause cancer. This means that there are multiple cancerous pathways, each having its own defining features.   Therefore, scientists need to develop treatments that are specifically targeted to a particular type of cancer.

Before the advent of genomics, the best-known way in which doctors were to treat cancer was to expose a patient to toxic treatments, involving radiation and chemotherapy with the intent of killing cancerous cells.   This can be considered as a brute-force approach of treating cancer, because the toxins not only target cancer cells but also target the healthy cells that people need in order to function. [2] That’s why individuals undergoing these treatments can become lethargic to the point where they are unable to function normally.  Chemotherapy and related treatments are relatively ineffective in treating neuroblastoma, leukemia, and pancreatic cancer because destroying cancer cells in these areas would also kill cells that are necessary for the patient’s survival.  Therefore, it is highly unlikely that a patient would recover from these ailments and these types of cancer usually result in one’s death.

New drugs typically focus on preventing proteins that are involved in the cell-growth pathway from interacting with each other. [3] They therefore stop the process of cell division and hinder the tumor’s ability to grow further.  Patients have varying responses to these drugs so this type of therapy can only be effective under certain circumstances. 

A new treatment method is known as Kanzius RF therapy. [2] It involves using golden or carbon-based nanoparticles, radio waves, and antibodies to kill cancer. [4] Scientists can target these golden or carbon-based nanoparticles into a cell by means of using an antibody that can recognize a particular type of cancer cell.  The nanoparticles move inside the tumor and, when heated to extremely high temperatures by means of radio waves, race around, destroying the cellular structures of the cancerous cells. [4] Scientists researching this method reported experimental results, showing that every cancer cell that was injected with the nanoparticles was killed when exposed to radio waves. [5]

Since scientists can develop antibodies to target cancer cells, the therapy could therapeutically be used against any type of cancer.   The therapy does not merely hinder cell division with the possibility of curing disease, like the drugs currently available on the market; it kills all cells that have the nanoparticles within them. It is important to note that this therapy is not ready for use in patients.  It has shown promise in the lab, where it has been observed to kill all cancer cells, but it has just recently entered clinical trials. [2] The therapy is currently being used on large animals. [6]

* Parsa Shahbodaghi is an Asssitant Editor for TuftScope. This is a special web only post on biomedical advances accompanying the Spring 2010 issue.


1. Campbell N., Reece J., Urry L., Cain M., Wasserman S., Minorsky P., Jackson R. "Biology" p. 374-377 2008. San Francisco: Pearson Benjamin Cummings
2. Laloup, Jennifer. "Cancer Therapy Without Side Effects Nearing Trials". Wired. 03/03/2010. [Link]
3. Harmon, Amy. "A Drug Trial Cycle: Recovery, Relapse, Reinvention". The New York Times. 03/02/2010. [Link]
4. Stahl, Leslie. "Homemade Cancer Machine Shows Promise". CBS News. 03/02/2010.[Link]
5. Gannon C. J., Cherukuri P., Yakobson B. I. , Cognet L., Kanzius J.S., Kittrell C. , R. Weisman B, Pasquali M. , Schmidt H. K. , Smalley R. E. , Curley S. A. "Carbon nanotube-enhanced thermal destruction of cancer cells in a noninvasive radiofrequency field.” 2007. Cancer 110(12): 2654-65.
6. Kanzius Cancer Research. [Link]
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