UK scientists are testing a new technique using the magnetic fields of an MRI scanner to move cancer-fighting viruses towards tumours.
The new method being tested involves adding tiny magnetic particles to modified immune cells carrying a cancer-killing virus, then directing them to the tumour using magnets.
How effective is this new technique?
In their findings, the researchers found that when they guided the virus-carrying immune cells towards tumours in mice, it caused the tumours to shrink more effectively than if no guidance was used.
Senior Science Information Officer at Cancer Research UK, Dr Nick Peel, said: “Using viruses to kill tumour cells is one of the many ways researchers are using the immune system to attack cancer. But getting the virus precisely on target is a real challenge.”
One of the authors of the study, Dr Munitta Muthana said that the team’s findings could help to overcome this struggle.
“Our results show that it is possible to use a standard MRI scanner to naturally deliver cell-based therapies to both primary and secondary tumours which would normally be impossible to reach by injection,” she said.
Could the technique help fight asbestos-related cancers such as mesothelioma?
Asbestos-related lung cancers, such as mesothelioma, are notoriously difficult to treat, with very few options available. There have been some improvements in the research into potential treatments in recent months, which we have linked to at the bottom of the article.
Funding for asbestos-related lung cancers is very low, as awareness for the illnesses and harm caused by the inhalation of asbestos dust and fibres is nowhere near as high as it should be, considering the amount of people it affects.
Due to the difficulty to treat asbestos-related lung cancers, any improvements could potentially be a great help. Because this new technique helps to effectively guide treatments to a precise target, it could greatly aid the fight against asbestos-related lung cancers.