Nanotechnology and Radio Equipment Target Cancer

Researchers at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and Rice University are combining nanotechnology and equipment you would find at any radio station to battle cancer. Houston Public Radio's Capella Tucker reports.

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Doctor Steven Curley unlocks the door to a small lab at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center ...

"What we've got here, these are two standard radio frequency generators.ξ So these are three essentially kilowatt generators.ξ They are standard radio generators that a small local radio station or a ham radio operator might use."

On either side are two white columns which serve as radio frequency field generators.ξ A powerful radio field is produced when the generators are turned on.

"When the generator is on, I could put my hand in there or my arm and it wouldn't hurt it.ξ I mean we're being bombarded by radio waves constantly.ξ They don't heat us up, they don't damage us.ξ Now on the other hand if I had a piece of metal on my skin and then put it in there, yeah, then it would get hot."

That heat is what Curley is using to attack cancer cells inside the body.ξ Nanotubes are put directly inside groups of cancer cells.

"These nano tubes do get into the cells and when exposed to an external, meaning non-invasive radio frequency field, they release heat sufficient to kill the cancer cells."

That's what the research has shown so far, but more study is needed and it could be another three to five years before clinical trials would start in humans.

"This has been very fascinating, it has a lot of potential, but what I tell people is that unless we can demonstrate and actually achieve the ability to target the nano particles to the cancer cells, then this really is not going to be particularly helpful.ξ So I do believe it will be possible for several types of cancer, will it be possible for all types, no."

And so the research continues with the help of Rice University.ξ Researchers are also trying to figure how to best control the heat generated.ξ In the experiments so far, the nanotubes produced a lot more heat than expected and more than what they think is necessary.ξ Several different disciplines are coming together for this research and in the back of everyone's mind is Nobel Laureate Richard Smalley.ξ He helped design some of the studies with Curley and was enthusiastic about its possibilities before he died in 2005.ξ Capella Tucker, Houston Public Radio News.

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