M. Frederick Hawthorn receive the National Medal of Science from President Obama (Credit: Ryan K Morris/National Science & Technology Medals Foundation)
Researchers from the University of Missouri developed a new form of radiation therapy that successfully put cancer into remission in mice without any of the known harmful side-effects of conventional chemo and radiation cancer therapies. Clinical trials in humans could be the next stage.
Almost half a million people pass away from cancer each year in the United States alone (according to data from the Center for Disease Control). Around the world countless research groups are trying to find new cancer treatments which will be more useful and have less side-effects than existing treatments. Now, a new, potentially groundbreaking treatment for cancer has been developed by Professor M. Frederick Hawthorne and his team from the University of Missouri. -
For over 80 years scientists have been trying to successfully develop a cancer treatment known as boron neutron capture therapy (BNCT). After years of research, Professor Hawthorne might finally have found a way to do so using nanochemistry. -
Based on the understanding that cancer cells grow faster than normal cells and that during this process they absorb more materials than normal cells, Professor Hawthorne’s team developed a method for getting cancer cells to take in and store a special boron chemical Exposing the cancer cells to neutron particles made the boron atom shatter and selectively destroy the cancer cells, without harming neighboring healthy cells.
What made Professor Hawthorne’s method work was the special properties of the boron that he and his team developed. His form of boron will tear when it absorbs a neutron and release lithium, helium and energy. The lithium atoms penetrate the cancer cell and destroy it from the inside during so without harming the surrounding tissues which is the main cause for cancer treatment side-effects. -
According to Professor Hawthorne, who has recently awarded the National Medal of Science by President Obama in the White House: “A wide variety of cancers can be attacked with our BNCT technique. The technique worked excellently in mice. We are ready to move on to trials in larger animals, then people. However, before we can start treating humans, we will need to build suitable equipment and facilities. When it is built, MU will have the first radiation therapy of this kind in the world.” -
more information on this groundbreaking research can be found on the University of Missouri website as well as on the PNAS article recently published by the team. -
A video about Professor Hawthorne and his groundbreaking work on Boron
Iddo has a B.A. in Philosophy and Cognitive Science and an M.A. in Philosophy of Science from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is currently writing his Ph.D. thesis on the relationship between the scientific community and industry. Iddo was awarded the 2006 Bar Hillel philosophy of science prize for his work on the relationship between science and technology. He is a member of the board of the lifeboat foundation and was the editor of several high-profile science and technology websites since 1999.