That cancer cells can be killed with heat has been known for some time. The trick has been targeting the cancer cells so that the body’s healthy cells do not die along with them. “One promising idea, known as magnetic hyperthermia, involves injecting minuscule ‘nanoparticles,’ basically microscopic lumps of iron oxide or other compounds, into tumors to make them magnetic. … The magnetic nanoparticles are excited by the applied field and begin to get hot, heating and potentially destroying the surrounding cancer tissue. Because healthy tissue is not altered by the magnetic field, it does not heat up and is not damaged.”
What’s the Big Idea?
A major focus of nanotechnology has been its role in treating cancer. Nanoengineer Naomi Halas of Rice University in Houston, Texas, is impressed. “This group has solved the key impasse that has arrested the development of magnetic nanotherapies, that is, the weak response of the nanoparticle to the applied magnetic field,” she says. “I am so happy that more of these types of nanoparticle-based hyperthermal therapies are being developed to increase the arsenal of weapons against cancer.”