U.S. researchers have unveiled a new way to target and destroy all of our biggest enemies: cancer cells. The new method: sweat them out with “hyperthermia” (heightened body temperature). The research was presented at the annual meeting of the American Physical Society last week.
The cancer treatment uses hyperthermia to elevate the temperature of tumor cells, while keeping the surrounding healthy tissue at a lower degree of body heat. This targeted approach just may be the next frontier in cancer therapy.
Researchers said that, to perfect the technique, they used “ferrofluids” to induce the hyperthermia. A ferrofluid is a liquid that becomes strongly magnetized in the presence of a magnetic field. These fluids can then be magnetically targeted to cancerous tissues after being fed intravenously into the body. Magnetic particles seep into the tissue of the tumor cell swiftly and easily.
After, the magnetic particles are heated by exposing the tumor to a high frequency alternating magnetic field, causing the tissue’s death by heating. This process is called “magnetic fluid hyperthermia” and they have nicknamed it “thermotherapy.”
Temperatures in the range of 41 to 45 degrees Celsius are enough to slow or halt the growth of cancerous tissue. But, the study shows, without the process of magnetic fluid hyperthermia, these temperatures also destroy healthy cells.
The ideal hyperthermia treatment sufficiently increases the temperature of the tumor cells for about 30 minutes, while keeping healthy tissue below 41 degrees Celsius. It gets quite technical from here, but we do know that iron oxide particles appear to very compatible for magnetic fluid hyperthermia. This new idea will be tested using various experiments.
So, for now, this therapy isn’t widely available. But it’s something that may soon be commonly prescribed for people suffering from cancer, so mention it to your GP or oncologist.