Cancer treatment is often a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul. You may well have some success with chemotherapy, but subsequent damage to otherwise healthy organs and tissue is a trade-off that clinicians and patients have had to juggle with for decades. But, thanks to a chance meeting at the Hudson Institute in Melbourne, lung cancer patients could be looking at more effective chemo with fewer side effects.
Strong and light, spider silk is one of the most impressive materials in the natural world. Both the real thing and synthetic versions have been used to improve everything from clothing to car seats, cooling electronics to preserving produce, making sweet music or helping people hear it, and even patching up severed nerves. Now, scientists in Germany and Switzerland have found a new use for spider silk – wrapping up cancer drugs to protect them until they can reach their tumorous targets.
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.