Breakthrough cancer-killing treatment has no side-effects, study finds

April 3, 2013
M. Frederick Hawthorne’s team developed a new form of radiation therapy that successfully put cancer into remission in mice. Hawthorne received the National Medal of Science from President Obama in the East Room of the White House on February 1, 2013. Credit: Ryan K Morris/National Science & Technology Medals Foundation

(Medical Xpress)—Cancer painfully ends more than 500,000 lives in the United States each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The scientific crusade against cancer recently achieved a victory under the leadership of University of Missouri Curators' Professor M. Frederick Hawthorne. Hawthorne's team has developed a new form of radiation therapy that successfully put cancer into remission in mice. This innovative treatment produced none of the harmful side-effects of conventional chemo and radiation cancer therapies. Clinical trials in humans could begin soon after Hawthorne secures funding.

"Since the 1930s, scientists have sought success with a known as boron neutron capture therapy (BNCT)," said Hawthorne, a recent winner of the National Medal of Science awarded by President Obama in the White House. "Our team at MU's International Institute of Nano and finally found the way to make BNCT work by taking advantage of a cancer cell's biology with nanochemistry."

Cancer cells grow faster than normal cells and in the process absorb more materials than normal cells. Hawthorne's team took advantage of that fact by getting cancer cells to take in and store a boron chemical designed by Hawthorne. When those boron-infused cancer cells were exposed to neutrons, a , the boron atom shattered and selectively tore apart the , sparing neighboring healthy cells.

The physical properties of boron made Hawthorne's technique possible. A particular form of boron will split when it captures a neutron and release lithium, helium and energy. Like pool balls careening around a billiards table, the helium and lithium atoms penetrate the cancer cell and destroy it from the inside without harming the surrounding tissues.

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

Hawthorne believes that his discovery was possible only at the University of Missouri because MU has three features that separate it from other universities in the nation, the reason Hawthorne came to MU from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2006.

"First, it is an example of a small number of universities in the United States with a large number of science and engineering disciplines on the same campus," said Hawthorne. "Second, the largest university research nuclear reactor is located at MU. Finally, it has strong, collegial biomedicine departments. This combination is unique."

Explore further: Scientist creates new cancer drug that is ten times more potent

More information: The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) recently published the study, entitled "Boron neutron capture therapy demonstrated in mice bearing EMT 6 tumors following selective delivery of boron by rationally designed liposomes." www.pnas.org/content/early/2013/03/27/1303437110

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6 comments

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Yevgen
not rated yet Apr 03, 2013
"Cancer cells grow faster than normal cells and in the process absorb more materials than normal cells"

This is the same principle as in any chemotherapy. There are lots
of other cells that grow faster, like hair cells, and that is why all chemotherapies have severe side effects. So why exactly this one would not have the same side effects?
Sounds a bit like a press-release of a product than a science article.
bcode
not rated yet Apr 03, 2013
So why exactly this one would not have the same side effects?
Sounds a bit like a press-release of a product than a science article.


Amen.
Gawad
5 / 5 (1) Apr 03, 2013
"Cancer cells grow faster than normal cells and in the process absorb more materials than normal cells"

This is the same principle as in any chemotherapy. There are lots
of other cells that grow faster, like hair cells, and that is why all chemotherapies have severe side effects. So why exactly this one would not have the same side effects?
Sounds a bit like a press-release of a product than a science article.


The critical difference is that chemo is systemic whereas radiation therapy is local, thereby sparing remote normal fast growing/reproducing cells. Their technique seems to also have the advantage that local normal cells in the area of radiation therapy would also be spared.
praos
1 / 5 (1) Apr 04, 2013

So why exactly this one would not have the same side effects?

If you target cancer with radiations generated outside of the body, you must chose a penetrating kind of them, hitting all the cells on their way. However, helium and lithium nuclei, generated in the boron-neutron reaction, due to their high charge, are effectively stopped inside the cell. You use a shotgun instead of high-power riffle.

Gawad
not rated yet Apr 04, 2013
So why exactly this one would not have the same side effects?

If you target cancer with radiations generated outside of the body, you must chose a penetrating kind of them, hitting all the cells on their way. However, helium and lithium nuclei, generated in the boron-neutron reaction, due to their high charge, are effectively stopped inside the cell. You use a shotgun instead of high-power riffle.


Sorry, can't tell you "exactly" as the main article is behind a pay site, but from the description above and the article abstract it certainly sounds like the neutron radiation is being tailored to interact with cells that have been loaded with boron.
GldfrdEng
not rated yet Apr 05, 2013
I am not an expert, but probably the body is widely infused with the Boron and then the neutron beam is only pointed at the tumour site.
You'll probably have boron-infused hair cells but they won't explode without the neutron beams.

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