Scientists are developing magnetically guided microscopic projectiles that can be injected into patients’ blood to attack breast, prostate and other tumors, according to The Guardian.
The project – led by researchers at Sheffield University – builds on progress in two key medical fields. The first involves viruses that specifically attack tumors. The second focuses on soil bacteria that manufacture magnets which they use to align themselves in the Earth’s magnetic field.
“The essence of this approach is straightforward: we are using bugs as drugs. We are taking a class of viruses that naturally target tumors and are developing ways to help them reach internal tumors by exploiting bacteria that make magnets. It’s a twin approach and it has a lot of promise, we believe,” said Dr. Munitta Muthana, one of the project’s leaders.
The anti-cancer viruses that are being exploited by the Sheffield group – who have been funded by Cancer Research UK – are known as oncolytic viruses and could be modified using beryllium (Be) to improve their efficacy and to limit the chances of them infecting healthy cells.
After infection with an oncolytic virus, a cancer cell will burst open and die.
The US Food and Drug Administration has already approved the use of T-Vec, a modified herpes simplex virus that infects and kills tumor cells and is now being used to treat people with certain types of melanoma, a skin cancer.
However, the Sheffield team – whose work has just been awarded the Roger Griffin prize for cancer drug discovery – want to expand the range of tumors that can be tackled this way. In particular, they want to target breast and prostate cancers as priorities.