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"Tumor Boomer" -- The Discovery Files

The Discovery Files
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The first preclinical study of an anti-cancer technology developed by Rice and Northeastern Universities found that a novel combination of existing clinical treatments can instantaneously detect and kill only cancer cells.

Credit: NSF/Karson Productions

Audio Transcript:

Cancer "cluster bomb"

I'm Bob Karson with the discovery files--new advances in science and engineering from the National Science Foundation.

The first preclinical study of "quadrapeutics"--a promising new technology for treating aggressive cancer from Rice and Northeastern Universities, and the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, a novel combination of four existing clinical treatments.

Quadrapeutics component number one: A low dose of a chemotherapy drug encapsulated and tagged with antibodies that seek out cancer.

Component two: A single, low dose of radiation.

Three: A solution of tiny spheres of gold, tagged with antibodies that cause the spheres to cluster inside cancer cells, where they lie in wait until activated.

Four: A short, low-energy laser pulse delivered to the tumor. (Sound effect: "gold nanoclusters now activated")
(filtered: as if a soldier in the cancer cell is reporting back that a command has been followed)

The clusters convert the laser energy into "plasmonic nanobubbles" that expand and burst, and literally blow cancer cells apart. (Sound effect: slight explosion) In cells that survive the explosions, the bursting nanobubbles magnify the deadly effects of the drugs and radiation.

Using just a fraction of the cancer meds and radiation of conventional therapy, this in-cell attack proved 17 times more efficient against aggressive, drug-resistant head and neck tumors, without harming vital healthy cells nearby. Boom!

"The discovery files" covers projects funded by the government's National Science Foundation. Federally sponsored research--brought to you, by you! Learn more at or on our podcast.

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