Scientists discovered that a small MRI-guided device that can be sent to a cancer tumor center has the ability to avoid traditional side effects of cancer treatments by accurately treating the tumor without damaging healthy tissue.
The MRI, commonly used to diagnose cancer, directs a “chromium-plated steel ball” through the body. Once at the tumor, it only takes 45 seconds to reach a temperature of 55 degrees Celsius, resulting in an “explosion” that quickly destroys cancer cells without damaging nearby healthy tissue.
When used in mice with cancer, treatment called minimally invasive image-guided resection, or MINIMA, eliminated tumors within 33 days.
It is hoped that testing the device, which has also been tested in pig brains, will begin on prostate cancer patients later this year, but scientists say it can be used for any cancer.
Professor Mark Lethgoy, senior author of the five-year study, from University College London, said: “A lot of people were very skeptical that we would be able to send a magnetic seed to the tumor, and use an MRI machine to move it. But this shows that people can simply go to their local hospitals and have an MRI, not just to diagnose cancer but to treat it by heating the tumor.”
Extreme heat was applied to cancer cells for destruction in studies in men with prostate cancer previously. But this method tends to use nanoparticles injected into the gland without directing them to a tumor.
The new technology requires pushing a 2mm “seed” to a point specified by the magnetic force of MRI.
Heating, which took up to 30 minutes with nanoparticles, can now be heated in less than a minute.
The entire procedure, including pointing the seed at the tumor, blowing it up and then pulling it out, took five minutes on the mice.
In humans, a “image-guided simplex resection” procedure may take 10 to 30 minutes, and after inserting it under the skin, the doctor directs the seed along the shortest pathway (for example, avoiding nerves and important parts of the brain). A copper screw in the device uses radio waves to heat the seed.
Rebecca Baker, lead author of the study, from the University College London Centre for Advanced Biomedical Imaging, said: “The use of an MRI scanner to deliver treatment in this way allows therapeutic seed imaging and tumor throughout the procedure, ensuring that treatment is delivered accurately and without the need for open surgery. This may be beneficial for patients by reducing recovery times and reducing the likelihood of side effects.”