from the nano-radiation-therapy dept.
According to a press release, a team of researchers at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) have developed a complex, highly-specific anti-cancer agent which they call a îmolecular nanogeneratorî. These nanogenerators consist of a single radioactive atom contained inside a molecular cage and attached to a monoclonal antibody that homes in on cancer cells, where it is carried inside. The complex then releases a small cascade of atomic fragments known as alpha particles on the inside of cancer cells. — and destroys them. The results of this work are published in the 16 November 2001 issue of Science.
The atom contained inside the nanogenerator is actinium-225, which decays by giving off short-lived, high-energy alpha particles that blast through cancer cells and destroy their DNA and proteins. When actinium decays, it produces a series of three daughter atoms each of which gives off its own alpha particle. Each particle increases the chance that the cancer cell will be destroyed. The specificity for only certain types of cancer cells provided by the antibody component helps increase the nanogeneratorís effectiveness. If the radioactive atom remains outside of the cell, the alpha particle can travel in any direction, and it kills the cell only a fraction of the time. If the generator is inside the cell, every alpha particle will be effective and greatly reduces the possibility of damage to nearby healthy cells.
Some additional coverage can be found in this article (îRadioactive 'Trojan Horse' Hits Cancer Cellsî, by Maggie Fox, 15 November 2001) from Reuters News Service, and an item (îNuclear weapon blasts tumours", by Helen Pearson, 16 November 2001) from the Nature Science Update website.