Tinfoil Hat Stops Brain Cancer

Tinfoil Hat Stops Brain Cancer
Researchers have used low-intensity, intermediate-frequency electric fields to combat an aggressive brain cancer known as glioblastoma multiforme (GBM). The strategy pinpoints tumors without invasive brain surgery and has more than doubled survival time in preliminary studies.

The new approach exploits a cog in the cell-division pathway. When cells divide, a molecular motor called the microtubule spindle helps segregate chromosomes into the resulting daughter cells. Resembling a set of strings, the spindle is made of electrically polar macromolecules that are sensitive to electric fields. Previous work has shown that if a 200-kHz field is applied to these macromolecules, the spindle can't form properly. As a result, cells stop dividing and eventually die.

The device is ideal for those with GBM because it only acts on the brain and lacks chemotherapy's systemic side effects, says Eric Wong, a neuro-oncologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts. Because tumor cells in the brain frequently divide, normal brain cells would remain unaffected by the electric fields.

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