Nanoparticles study opens up new way of attacking cancer by brute force

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Cancer cells can be "mechanically" destroyed by targeting them with clumps of microscopic particles that are then rotated by a magnetic field, research has shown.

The early study conducted by international scientists opens up a completely new way of attacking tumours by physically tearing them apart.

The team first coated tiny magnetic "nanoparticles" with molecules that attach themselves to specific cancer proteins.

In laboratory tests, the particles were readily taken up by cancer cells.

Applying an external magnetic field caused the particles to stick together in elongated clumps, creating a potent weapon for defeating cancer by brute force.

The scientists, co-led by Professor Gustavo Plaza, from the Polytechnic University of Madrid in Spain, said in a statement: "The application of an external relatively low magnetic field results in the formation of elongated nanoparticle aggregates.

"Finally, under a low frequency rotating magnetic field, we achieve the movement of nanoparticle aggregates that produce forces high enough to break ... the cell membrane, inducing the death of cancer cells with a very high effectiveness."

In previous experiments, scientists have used nanoparticles stimulated by magnetic fields to destroy cancer cells with heat.

Magnetic nanoparticles are also being investigated as potential drug-delivery devices.

The new research is reported in the journal Theranostics.