The most common treatments for cancer are radiation and chemotherapy. However these treatments have side effects and also damage healthy tissues. Moreover, their effectiveness is limited when the cancer has spread throughout the body. Researchers at the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen are therefore working to develop a gentler treatment that “tricks” the cancer cells, which would absorb a cytotoxin and therefore be destroyed, while healthy cells would remain unaffected. The results were published on March 2, 2016 in the scientific journal, Scientific Reports. The open-access article is titled “Restricted Mobility of Specific Functional Groups Reduces Anti-Cancer Drug Activity in Healthy Cells.” Physicist Murillo Martins, Ph.D., at the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen had an idea. He wanted to construct a kind of nanoscale “lorry” that could transport the cytotoxin directly to the cancer cells via the bloodstream and would prompt the cells to let the “load” in so that the cancer cells were destroyed. It is something you could imagine in a science fiction film, but could it be `done in the real world? The first task was the “vehicle” itself. For that he decided to use tiny magnetic beads, an approach well known in medical research. You can inject the beads into the bloodstream and by placing a magnet at the site where the tumor is located you can get the beads to move there. The next step was the cytotoxic load.
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