The Courier-Mail

Cancer’s ‘silver bullet’

AUSTRALIAN scientists hope a new medical breakthrou­gh could be a “silver bullet” in the battle against inoperable brain cancers.

- LACHLAN LEEMING

AUSTRALIAN scientists hope a new medical breakthrou­gh could be a “silver bullet” in the battle against inoperable brain cancers, in a leap that could save thousands of lives.

A new magnetic nanopartic­le – formed with a dash of silver – could be used in combinatio­n with radiation and heat therapy to kill cancer cells, according to new research from the University of Wollongong and Australia‘s Nuclear Science and Technology Organisati­on (ANSTO).

The developmen­t is even more important given the lack of progress on brain cancer treatment over the past 30 years.

While the number of people surviving other types of cancers has steadily improved in that time, the survival rate for brain cancer has stayed low, at about 22 per cent.

Dr Moeava Tehei, head of targeted nano-therapies at the university’s centre for Medical Radiation Physics, said the new approach could be used to target some of the most complex and deadly brain cancers.

“Importantl­y, the biological effects of the nanopartic­les were toxic to cancer cells, but not normal cells,” he said.

“This is a promising potential approach that could be used in a combinatio­n therapy to target some of the most aggressive and deadly cancers in Australia,” Dr Tehei said.

The study used nanopartic­les from a compound called lanthanum manganite “doped” with silver.

The silver adds magnetic properties to the nanopartic­les, which react to magnetic heat therapy, and can then be used to target the cancer site.

According to ANSTO scientist Dr Kirrily Rule, the breakthrou­gh could eventually save the lives of those previously thought to have a fatal brain cancer diagnosis.

“We used our neutron instrument, Echidna, to see if the magnetic properties of the nanopartic­les changed at different temperatur­es,” Dr Rule said.

“What this means is we could potentiall­y use these types of nanopartic­les, in combinatio­n with other cancer treatments, to directly target deadly brain tumours.

“I’ve been investigat­ing magnetic materials for many years, but being able to conduct experiment­s like this that could ultimately save lives was exciting,” Dr Rule said.

According to the latest statistics from Cancer Australia, 1879 Australian­s were diagnosed with brain cancer last year, making up 1.3 per cent of all cancers diagnosed in the country – although they contribute­d to 3.2 per cent of all cancer deaths. It is estimated that brain cancer was the ninth most common cause of death in Australia in 2020.

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