In the past year, researchers have reported killing cancer cells with magnetically driven, spinning iron–nickel discs; iron–cobalt particles; and radio waves aimed at gold, cadmium, indium, and gallium particles.
It's all happened in preclinical studies so far. But the studies have drawn attention, partly because of their science-fiction–sounding methods and partly because they highlight a burgeoning partnership between two unlikely bedfellows: materials science researchers and clinical oncologists.
“I’ve seen a dramatic increase over the last 3–4 years in the involvement of chemists, physicists, bioengineers, and materials scientists in clinical oncology,” said Steven Curley, M.D. , a surgical oncologist at the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, who is working on the radio waves.
Some of the partnerships are focused on nanoimaging devices ( see accompanying news story); others, on nano- or microtherapeutics. The treatments they are exploring are diverse but share a core concept: the pairing of biologically active molecules such as drugs and antibodies with biologically inert particles such as metals and polymers.