Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Experimental Therapies for Cancer Metastasis

One of the biggest issues with extremely aggressive cancers is the emergence of CTCs (circulating tumor cells) that spread cancerous tissue to surrounding organs. During rapid unregulated cell division, cancer cells often lose or receive different marking tags - usually small glycoproteins - that allow them to communicate their location and functionality to their surrounding environment. Therefore, without correct recognition, they are expelled into circulatory regions and distributed throughout the body spreading the tumor. This phenomenon is one of the primary reasons for recurring symptoms in survivors of initial cancer treatment.

Researchers Ekaterin Galanzha and Vladimir P. Zharov working out of the University of Arkansas have developed a magnetic marker that attaches to breast cancer CTCs and can be used to get early detection results for malignant tumors and, more importantly, to corral affected cells in a single location. From there, these cells can be directly removed or irradiated depending on the conditions.

The implications for this technology are encouraging at minimum. Although this technology cannot kill the cancer itself, it slows its progression and can be used as a preventive post-chemotherapy treatment. In fact, the results so far show a 10-fold reduction in CTCs which apparently is enough to cause a complete end to metastasis in distant organs.

However, there is a hitch. These magnetic markers are distinct for each cancer. As such, redesign will be necessary to apply this method to other tumors. Additionally, many worry that toxicity will be an issue in humans despite successful treatments in mice. But, I'm all for positive thinking.

*Edit* Full Paper can be found here. here. *Edit*

By the way, in case you were wondering where this post came from. I'm a new author and will be contributing once or twice a week - mostly medical technology since its my passion and how I legitimize paying the outrageous tuition at Emory University. At least, it's easier to explain than tuition for these guys.

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