New Study Proposes to Use Microwave Irradiation to Fight Cancer

A physicist proposes an innovative concept for the treatment of cancer cells.
Fabienne Lang

The scientific journal, Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology and Medicine, recently published a paper by physics Professor Wei Chen of the Univeristy of Texas at Arlington, where Chen proposes the idea of using titanium dioxide (TiO2) nanoparticles stimulated by microwaves in order to kill cancer cells.

The best part of the research is that this method would operate without damaging other normal cells around them. 


The method has been named: microwave-induced radical therapy, or MDT.

TiO2 nanoparticles' usage in cancer treatments have already been studied extensively; however, this is the first time researchers have demonstrated that nanoparticles can be effectively activated by microwaves in order to kill cancerous cells.

This kind of therapy may open new doors for treatment of cancer patients.

How does it work?

The new therapy centers on reactive oxygen species (ROS). ROS helps destroy toxins in our body but can also be damaging to cells if they reach a critical level.

By using TiO2 to enter cells, which in turn produces ROS that damage plasma membranes, mitochondria and DNA, and ultimately cause cell death.

"Cancer cells are characterized by a higher steady-state saturation of ROS than normal, healthy cells," Chen said.

"This new therapy allows us to exploit that by raising the saturation of ROS in cancer cells to a critical level that triggers cell death without pushing the normal cells to that same threshold."

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Microwave irradiation to eradicate cancer cells

The team of international researchers conducted experiments that demonstrate the nanoparticles can significantly suppress the growth of osteosarcomas (a type of cancer that produces immature bone) under microwave irradiation. 

For tumors located deep in the body, using microwaves allow deeper penetration that goes through all types of tissues and non-metallic materials.

Chen stated that, "This new discovery is exciting because it potentially creates new avenues for treating cancer patients without causing debilitating side effects."

"This targeted, localized method allows us to keep healthy cells intact so patients are better equipped to battle the disease," he noted. 

This method is still being developed and its limitations are still being tested. However, if proven successful, this would be a promising way of killing cancer cells, without any exhausting side-effects.  

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