A new highly targeted anti-tumor treatment has been developed by scientists at University College London. Using the magnetic fields generated by an MRI Scanner, the approach involves guiding ferromagnetic thermoseeds to the site of a tumor. The tumor can then be destroyed by the magnetic seeds through localized heating induced by an MR-compatible thermoblative device.
The scientists call the technique “minimally invasive image-guided ablation” or MIMIMA. It’s hoped that it can provide effective treatments for brain and prostate cancers. It converts an MRI Scanner from a diagnostic device to a therapeutic one that helps guide a thermoblative treatment directly to the tumor site. By implanting 2 mm-sized metal alloy beads superficially, the magnetic fields of an MRI Scanner can be used to guide them to the tumor site. The beads can then be remotely activate to produce heat, which kills nearby cancer cells.
“MINIMA is a new MRI-guided therapy that has the potential to avoid traditional side effects by precisely treating the tumor without harming healthy tissues,” said Mark Lythgoe, one of the developers of the new technique. “Because the heating seed is magnetic, the magnetic fields in the MRI scanner can be used to remotely steer the seed through tissue to the tumor. Once at the tumor, the seed can then be heated, destroying the cancer cells, while causing limited damage to surrounding healthy tissues.”
The ability to image the tumor and magnetic seeds while performing the magnetic guidance and thermoablation is a major benefit of the approach as it limits the potential for off-target effects. The treatment could be delivered with precision and without having to perform open surgery. As a result, recovery times will be reduced and side effects are minimized.
The system was tested in a mouse tumor model. They were able to eradicate the mouse tumors entirely. In the future, the team hopes to change the shape of the seed in order for it to act as a tiny cutting scalpel that can be guided through tissue. This could allow surgeons to perform remotely controlled operations which would revolutionize non-invasive surgery.
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Meet the author: Vikki Harmonay