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Turning Laws of Attraction Against Tumors

October 5, 2009

Thanks in part to the work of two Dartmouth Medical School (DMS) researchers, cancer patients someday could be fighting their afflictions by offering their tumors a sweet-and fatal-attraction that appears to work well either alone or in concert with chemotherapy and radiation.

"...it is the generation of very localized (intracellular) heat by the iron-oxide nanoparticles that kills the cancer cells."

P. Jack Hoopes, DVM, PhD, professor of surgery, radiation oncology, and biomedical engineering, and Rendall R. Strawbridge, a research assistant in the department of surgery, collaborated with a team from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, under a grant from the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command. In a study published in the journal Nanotechnology, the team describes coating nanoparticles of iron oxide with sugar molecules and injecting them into mice with breast tumors. The researchers then applied an alternating magnetic field, which ignores tissues and cells not containing the nanoparticles, to the mice.

"The research team believes it is the generation of very localized (intracellular) heat by the iron-oxide nanoparticles that kills the cancer cells," Hoopes says. "This type of individual cell therapy appears to be one of the best current hopes to effectively treat cancers that metastasize or spread to numerous sites in the body."

Hoopes teaches an introductory course in biomedical engineering at Dartmouth's Thayer School of Engineering, and directs the Comparative Research and Surgical Research Laboratories at DMS. He also directs the Irradiation Shared Resource at Norris Cotton Cancer Center, where Strawbridge performs daily irradiations for Dartmouth researchers.

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