Over 65 million years ago, an asteroid some 10 km (6 mi) wide crashed into the Earth and wiped out the dinosaurs. Strangely, the legacy of this huge space rock could include a treatment for cancer after scientists from the UK and China demonstrated that iridium – a rare metal delivered to Earth by the asteroid – can be enlisted to kill cancer without harming healthy cells.
Cancer is one of humanity’s biggest killers, but scientists are coming up with some creative ways to fight back. Researchers at the University at Buffalo have developed new kinds of nanoparticles that can infiltrate, heat up and kill cancer cells more effectively and efficiently than similar methods.
The drug, Antabuse, appears to ‘freeze’ cancer in place, preventing them from getting rid of waste, which, ultimately, kills them.
Danish and Czech researchers tested the drug in live mice and human cancer cells and found that it was effective in both without harming other cells.
These findings are not enough to indicate how Antabuse would behave in living people, but the drug is already FDA-approved and its patent is long expired, so if further testing is as promising as this study’s findings, the drug could someday be a cheap alternative cancer treatment.
A groundbreaking device that can diagnose cancer in just 20 minutes is being developed by British scientists.
The world’s first tumor profiler, as it is known, will allow doctors, nurses and pharmacists to quickly identify all known types of cancer while the patient waits.
It is hoped the device, which will also gauge the correct drug to prescribe cancer sufferers, will be used within the next three years.
The device has been invented as part of a partnership between private firm QuantuMDx, Newcastle University and Sheffield University.
Scientists say the Q-Cancer device will have a dramatic impact on the rapid and accurate diagnosis of cancer.
Company officials said the device has the potential to prolong the lives of the 12 million newly diagnosed cancer sufferers around the world.
It will enable surgeons to immediately remove most, if not all of the tumor, and allow cancer specialists to prescribe the correct treatment regime according to the type of cancer developed.
The device makes use of advanced nanotechnology, analyzing submicroscopic amounts of tissue to work out the type of cancer, its genetic make-up and how far it has developed.
Professor John Burn (left), a renowned geneticist, and Jonathan O’Halloran, both of QuantuMDx, the company developing the device
Professor Sir John Burn, the Newcastle University academic who is also medical director of QuantuMDx, said: ‘We have a world leading position to deliver complex DNA tumor testing to the routine pathology lab or even to the operating theatre.
‘A low-cost device requiring no technical expertise will extract, amplify and analyze tumor DNA to make sure the patient gets the right treatment first time and without delay.’
Chief executive Elaine Warburton said: ‘Currently tumor samples are sent away to a centralized sequencing laboratory, which can take several weeks to turnaround results, usually at a very high price which is not routinely affordable to many.
‘As far as we are aware, QuantuMDx’s current underlying technologies, which can break up a sample and extract the DNA in under five minutes represents a world first for complex molecular diagnostics.
Dr Emma Smith, Cancer Research UK’s senior science information officer, said: ‘Using the latest technology to analyze tumors quickly and cheaply could make a real difference to cancer patients and we will watch these developments with interest. It will need thorough testing to show it meets the standards required for routine use.’
Attribution: Anna Hodgekiss