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Sci-Fi like approach to fighting cancer

February 17, 2015 Pat Killingsworth No Comments

If only it could be this easy: using specially designed nano tubes to help diagnose and battle cancer; a twofer!

Microscopic gold tubes can both detect and help destroy cancer cells

By John Fingas – February 15, 2015 – engadget.com

nano tubes

There’s no doubt that doctors would prefer to treat cancer as soon as they spot it, and it looks like nanotechnology might give them that chance. Researchers at the University of Leeds have successfully tested gold nanotubes that are useful for both imaging and destroying cancer cells. Since the tubes absorb near-infrared light frequencies, which both generate heat and render human skin transparent, you only need to zap them with lasers of varying brightness to achieve multiple ends. You can use a relatively low brightness to reveal tumors, while high brightness will heat the tubes enough to kill nearby tumorous cells.

The shape also has room for drugs, so you can deliver medicine at the same time.

Scientists have only tried this approach in a mouse model of human cancer, so it’ll be a long while before the technique is ready for your local hospital. However, it might be worth the wait. Besides saving time, the gold nanotubes both enter and leave your body with minimal fuss; you aren’t as likely to grapple with side effects caused by methods like chemotherapy. If all goes well, you’d only need injections and laser blasts to deal with at least some life-threatening conditions.

[Image credit: Jing Claussen (iThera Medical, Germany)]

The promise of ever advancing medical technology is both a blessing and a curse.  Genetic profiling in multiple myeloma (bone marrow cancer) patients will no doubt help doctors match the best therapy combinations to individual patients.  But take it from someone that could use the help, the diagnostics are a way ahead of therapy.  Clinical trials take so long–and learning which drugs work best in which genetic profile is decades away.

It something so basic is still ten years away, how long until doctors are using space age technology like this?  Maybe we’ll be surprised.  Maybe ever evolving and stronger computers will help speed things up.  There are a lot of really smart people working on things like this.  The devil (and skyrocketing cost) is in the details: applying the theoretical to real people and testing to see which dosing works best–or if it even works.

Don’t get discouraged.  I’m just pointing out that everything seems easier in the lab.

Feel good and keep smiling!  Pat

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