MRI scanners are widely used in hospitals around the world and are essential for detecting diseases such as cancer. However, they could soon go from diagnostic equipment to therapeutic platform equipment, thanks to a group of researchers from University College London (UCL) who used an MRI scanner to guide a tiny magnetic “seed” through brain to heat & destroy cancer cells.
It consists of ferromagnetic thermoseeds, which are basically 2 mm metal-spheres, which are guided with a magnetic propulsion generated with a MRI scanner to a tumor and then heated remotely to kill nearby cancer cells.
If this technique is successful in humans, it could help fight hard-to-reach brain tumors by establishing “proof of concept” for the precise treatment of cancers such as glioblastoma, the most common form of brain cancer & the prostate, which could benefit from less invasive therapies.
MRI seeds boost fight against cancer
UCL researchers have demonstrated 3 main components of MINIMA to a high-level of accuracy: precise seed imaging, Navigation via brain tissue using a custom MRI system (tracked with 0.3mm accuracy) and eradicating tumor in a mouse model by heating-it.
The researchers used an MRI machine to direct metal spheres 2mm in diameter, which were implanted superficially into the tissues and then [navigated] to the tumors. Then they were heated-to destroy cells.
“The use of a MRI scanner to provide therapy in this way allows the therapeutic seed & tumor to-be imaged throughout the procedure, which guarantees that the treatment is delivered with precision & without having to perform an open surgery,” explained lead author Rebecca Baker from the UCL Center for Advanced Biomedical Imaging in a press release. “This could be beneficial to patients by reducing recovery times & minimizing chance of side-effects.
Cancer is one of the leading causes of death worldwide, accounting for nearly 10 million deaths in 2020, making improving the accuracy of our cancer treatments one of the most pressing un-met needs we face today.
“One in eight men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. Although treatments such as radiotherapy & surgery can be effective, they often cause unwanted & debilitating side-effects such as incontinence & impotence,” said Professor Mark Emberton from UCL’s Department of Surgery and Interventional Sciences, who is the lead cancer clinician in study. “MINIMA could allow us to precisely target & destroy prostate cancerous tissue, thereby reducing damage to normal cells,” he added.
In the future, the researchers want to change the structure of the seed so that it can function as a small cutting knife that can be guided through tissue. This would allow surgeons to perform remotely controlled procedures & potentially revolutionize non-invasive surgery.