Scientists create cancer-killing treatment they hope will annihilate most aggressive tumours
- Nottingham University scientists found the particles left healthy cells unscathed
- Around 2,000 people every year in England are diagnosed with glioblastoma
Electrically charged particles that trick cancer cells into self-destructing could be used as a spray to treat brain tumours, experts hope.
Scientists in Nottingham have discovered a new way to use nanoparticles to induce cell death, known scientifically as apoptosis, in glioblastoma cells — one of the most aggressive forms of brain cancer.
The particles were able to specifically target glioblastoma cells, leaving healthy cells unscathed.
Researchers believe it is the first ‘quantum therapy’, tapping into the potential of quantum mechanics to tackle cancer.
They believe their findings will provide a new and effective treatment for brain tumours.
Scientists in Nottingham have discovered a new way to use bio-nanoantennae, to induce cell death, known scientifically as apoptosis, in glioblastoma cells — one of the most aggressive forms of brain cancer. Treatment involves surgery, after which chemotherapy and radiation therapy are used. Pictured, Coloured computed tomography (CT) scan of a patient with glioblastoma
The Wanted singer Tom Parker (pictured with his wife Kelsey Parker in October 2021) died in March 2022 following an 18-month battle with stage four glioblastoma. He said after his diagnosis that he was ‘shocked’ at the limited treatment options for GBM and ‘massive improvements’ were needed. The cancer, which strikes around 2,000 people in England and 12,000 Americans a year, is still treated in the same way it was in the early 2000s
Writing in the journal, Nature Nanotechnology, researchers from the University of Nottingham said: ‘To the best of our knowledge, this is the first successful demonstration of electrical–molecular quantum signalling technology in biology.’
Dr Frankie Rawson, who led the study, said: ‘We refer to [the nanoparticles] as “bio-nanoantennae” because they convert an electric field into a biological signaling event, which then regulates cell functions such as apoptosis — programmed cell death.’
She added: ‘The team showed that cancer cells succumb to the intricate dance of electrons, orchestrated by the enchanting world of quantum biology.
‘With the advent of bio-nanoantennae, this vision of real-world quantum therapies edge closer to reality.
‘By precisely modulating quantum biological electron tunnelling, these ingenious nanoparticles create a symphony of electrical signals that trigger the cancer cells’ natural self-destruction mechanism.’
Read more: Cancer patients missing out on breakthrough treatment as UK falls ‘behind the pack’, experts warn
Dr Rawson added the treatment had also been found to work on bile duct cancer cells, suggesting it could be a more broad treatment.
The Wanted singer Tom Parker died in March following an 18-month battle with stage four glioblastoma.
He said after his diagnosis that he was ‘shocked’ at the limited treatment options for GBM and ‘massive improvements’ were needed.
The cancer, which is diagnosed in around 2,000 people in England and 12,000 Americans a year, is still treated in the same way it was in the early 2000s.
Diagnosed patients usually undergo surgery to remove as much of the tumour as possible.
This is followed by daily radiation and chemo drugs for around six weeks, after which the drugs are scaled back.
Radiation can be used to destroy additional tumour cells and treat those who are not well enough for surgery.
The cancer is one of the most aggressive brain tumours and can double in size in just seven weeks.
For comparison, the fastest-growing lung cancers take 14 weeks to double.
Some people may go into remission with GBM — where symptoms ease or disappear for a time. But the cancer often regrows.
Study co-author Dr Ruman Rahman, said: ‘Treating glioblastoma tumours has long presented challenges for clinicians and prognosis for patients is still poor, which is why any research showing the promise of a new effective treatment is hugely exciting.
‘This research has shown the possibilities presented by quantum therapeutics as a new technology to communicate with biology.
‘The fusion of quantum bioelectronics and medicine brings us one step closer to a new treatment paradigm for disease.’
The researchers will now investigate the effect of the bio-nanoantennae initially on animals before studying humans.
The team hopes that one day it will be available as a spray for use during surgery. Currently, comparable treatments take up to 11 years from lab to human use.
WHAT IS A GLIOBLASTOMA AND JUST HOW DEADLY IS IT? THE AGGRESSIVE BRAIN TUMOR SUFFERED BY JOHN MCCAIN
Glioblastoma is considered the most aggressive tumor that can form in the brain. Senator John McCain was diagnosed with one in July 2017.
Patients have a 10 per cent chance of surviving five years after their diagnosis, according to figures. The average lifespan is between 14 and 16 months.
Three adults per every 100,000 will be struck down with a glioblastoma, says The American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS).
It is most commonly found in men aged 50 to 60, and there is no link between developing glioblastoma and having a previous history with other cancers.
WHAT IS THE TUMOR MADE OF?
The tumor is made up of a mass of cells growing quickly in the brain, and in most cases patients have no family history of the disease.
It won’t spread to other organs, however, once it is diagnosed, it is nearly impossible to target, surgeons claim.
Unlike other types of brain cancer which are more specifically located, glioblastoma can occur in any part of the brain.
WHAT TREATMENT IS AVAILABLE?
Because the tumor likely already spread deep into the brain by the time it is diagnosed, the cancerous tissue is incredibly difficult to remove.
Surgeon will only ever remove the tumor, or part of the tumor, if it won’t do any damage to the surrounding brain tissue.
Dr Babcar Cisse, a neurosurgeon at the Weill Cornell Brain and Spine Center, told Daily Mail Online in July 2017: ‘By the time a glioblastoma is diagnosed, microfibers can spread to the rest of the brain which an MRI would not spot.
‘So even if the main tumor is removed and the patient receives radiation and chemotherapy, it will come back.’
GRADING A GLIOBLASTOMA
Brain tumors are graded from between one to four, depending on how fast they grow and how aggressive they are.
Malignant tumors are either given a high-grade three or four, while benign ones are given a lower grade one or two.
Glioblastoma is often referred to as a grade four astrocytoma – another form of brain tumor, says the AANS.
Patients typically complain of symptoms such as confused vision, trouble with memory, dizziness and headaches.
The symptoms are somewhat nonspecific, and vary from person to person, and may not persist.
Some patients suffer from blindness if the tumour compresses their optic nerve, which connects the retina to the brain, resulting in vision loss.
The disease is therefore impossible to diagnose based on symptoms alone.
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