Scientists have developed a new radiation therapy for cancer patients that has no debilitating side-effects such as hair loss or sickness.
Trials in the U.S. have successfully killed cancer cells in mice and funding is now being sought to test the treatment on humans.
Side-effects of radiotherapy occur because it temporarily damages some of the healthy cells as well as destroying the cancerous ones.
The pioneering therapy has been developed by Professor M. Frederick Horne, who was recently awarded the prestigious National Medal of Science Award by President Obama
Common side effects of radiotherapy include hair loss, diarrhoea, nausea and sore skin.
For example, hair follicles are normally destroyed during radiotherapy because like cancer tumours, they are made up of rapidly growing cells.
Cancer cells grow faster than normal cells and, in the process, absorb more materials than normal cells, starving them of oxygen.
In the new study, Professor M. Frederick Hawthorne and his team from the University of Missouri took advantage of the absorbent cells by forcing them to take in a specially-engineered boron chemical.
Small amounts of boron play a strengthening role in the cell walls of all plants and it is often found in soil.
The team got cancer cells to take in and store a boron chemical designed by Professor Hawthorne.
When those boron-infused cancer cells were exposed to neutrons, a subatomic particle, the boron atom shattered and selectively tore apart the cancer cells, sparing neighboring healthy cells - and avoiding side-effects.
The reaction is said to be 'like pool balls careening around a billiards table' and cancer cells are destroyed from the inside without harming the surrounding tissues.
Common side effects of radiotherapy include hair loss, diarrhoea, nausea and sore skin
The research has been published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.
Professor Hawthorne is revered in his field and has recently been awarded the prestigious National Medal of Science Award by President Obama, the highest honour bestowed to scientists.
The 84 year-old said: 'Since the 1930s scientists have sought success with a cancer treatment known as boron neutron capture therapy (BNCT).
'Our team finally found the way to make BNCT work by taking advantage of a cancer cell's biology with nanochemistry.
'A wide variety of cancers can be attacked with our BNCT technique. The technique worked excellently in mice.
'We are ready to move on to trials in larger animals, then people. However, before we can start treating humans, we will need to build suitable equipment and facilities.
'When it is built, MU will have the first radiation therapy of this kind in the world.'
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2304082/New-radiation-therapy-cancer-patients-NO-effects-hair-loss-nausea.html#ixzz2PXX3Bkxy
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