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New study suggests magnetic seeds could be used to heat and kill cancer

Scientists have developed a novel cancer therapy that uses an MRI scanner to guide a magnetic seed through the brain to heat and destroy tumours.

An illustration of scientist who is a woman of colour looking down a microscope against a purple background.

The innovative therapy, demonstrated in mice, is called MINIMA and comprises a small, spherical ferromagnetic thermoseed made of a metal alloy that is navigated to a tumour using a tailored MRI system, before being remotely heated to kill nearby cancer cells.

Researchers from University College London say the findings, published in Advanced Science, establish initial ‘proof-of-concept’ for precise treatment of hard-to-reach glioblastomas, along with other cancers such as prostate, that could benefit from less invasive therapies.

Dr Becky Birch, Head of Research at The Brain Tumour Charity:

“It’s promising that guiding a tiny heating ‘seed’ using MRI imaging could offer an innovative new way to target cancer cells to help treat one of the most aggressive forms of brain tumour.

“Surgery remains the cornerstone of treatment for glioblastomas, but it can be really difficult to remove the whole tumour and such invasive surgery can come with significant long-term side-effects. If further research can now develop this approach and show that it is safe and effective in humans, we hope it could lead to a far less invasive and more effective way to remove as much of glioblastoma tumours as possible.

“Glioblastomas remain incurable and are the most common form of brain tumour in adults, accounting for around 2,200 cases in England each year. With treatment options remaining limited, and average survival being around 12-18 months from diagnosis, we urgently need to find new treatments to help give those affected by a glioblastoma more time to live. A cure can’t wait.”

The study was supported with funding by the Rosetrees Trust and the John Black Charitable Foundation.

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