Science: nanoscale 'Trojan Horse' attacks cancer cells from within

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A team of researchers has developed a molecular-sized atomic generator that slips into cancer cells like a tiny Trojan horse and produces extremely small but potent radioactive particles that destroy those cells without apparent toxic side effects, according to a report in the 16 November issue of the journal, Science.

David A. Scheinberg of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and colleagues used the nanogenerators to kill a variety of human cancer cell types in the lab, and to treat solid prostate and widely disseminated lymphoma tumors in mice, significantly prolonging their survival.

The research team hopes to file an application with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to begin human trials of the nanogenerator by next year, says Scheinberg.

The generator consists of a radioactive atom of actinium chemically harnessed to an antibody that zeros in on and penetrates only specific cancer cells. Inside the cell, the actinium decays by giving off alpha particles--very small, high-energy particles that rip through the cell and destroy it. Actinium's decay produces a series of three "daughter" atoms, each of which emits its own alpha particle as well.

"These are extraordinarily potent drugs. One atom will kill a cell," says Scheinberg.

At the same time, the internalization of the generators also helps to contain actinium's toxic decay daughters within the cell, making them less likely to escape to other sites in the body like the kidneys or intestines.

By attaching the generators to a variety of different antibodies, the Science study authors were able to kill human leukemia, lymphoma, breast, prostate, and ovarian cancer cells with very small doses of the generators--one trillionth of the standard unit of radioactive decay. A single, nontox

Contact: Lisa Onaga
American Association for the Advancement of Science

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