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Magnetic Medicine

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / teshimine

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / teshimine

By Nial Wheate

Magnetic fields could soon be used to direct drugs made with nano-sized balls of iron that take chemotherapy directly to tumours, thereby completely removing the side-effects usually associated with treatment.

Nial Wheate is a senior lecturer at the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Pharmacy.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

When I meet new people and tell them that I work in cancer, there are always two questions that I’m immediately asked: are you going to cure cancer, and how long is it going to take? The answers are not what people expect and they’re usually thrown by my response. I tell them we already have drugs capable of curing cancer – the drugs we use now work well, but we need to use them better.

Of course, the complete answer is much more complicated as treating cancer is not like treating other diseases. Each type of cancer is different, each person’s response to treatment is different, and how early we catch the cancer is as important as the methods we have for treating it.

But when chemotherapy fails and patients relapse, it’s not because the drugs don’t work. Rather, it’s because the side-effects of the drugs are so severe we can’t give the patient enough to kill the cancer completely.

The answer may lie in targeting systems that employ magnetism to move cancer drugs right to where we want them. We’ve been doing research in this and have already achieved some very interesting results.

The majority of chemotherapy drugs act by blocking important functions inside cells, such as the production of DNA. The subsequent cascade of effects results in the cell undergoing a process called apoptosis, a form of programmed cell suicide so that the cancer...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.