Follow Slashdot stories on Twitter


Forgot your password?
Medicine Science

X-rays For Stargazing Turn Into Cancer Treatment 59

derGoldstein writes "Discovery posted an interesting story of how X-rays that are used by astronomers for determining the various chemical abundances inside stars could also potentially be used for more effective radiation therapy: 'Radiation treatment is a coarse instrument at best, since it destroys surrounding healthy cells as well as cancerous tumors. Much research is underway for targeted methods to reduce the collateral damage and attack just the cancer cells, including embedding nanoparticles inside tumors ... Nahar and Pradham envision a prototype device capable of generating x-rays (gzipped PDF) at the key frequencies to trigger a flood of low-energy electrons in platinum and gold, based on their computer simulations. Gold or platinum nanoparticles would amass naturally in cancerous tumors in the body, and could then be zapped with the focused x-ray beam.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

X-rays For Stargazing Turn Into Cancer Treatment

Comments Filter:
  • This sounds like a neat cure. I wonder how different this is from other targeted focused energy treatment.
    • Question is do the cancer cells naturally accumulate gold and platinum when other cells do not, and if so, why?

      • The article didn't mention, but I get the impression that cancer cells will accumulate them where as normal cells don't. In reading the article it sounds like platinum would be the preferred metal.
      • Question is do the cancer cells naturally accumulate gold and platinum when other cells do not, and if so, why?

        If they did, we could mine cancer patients and they could finally pay for their therapy. I agree, where did THIS little bit come from? I suppose you can try to tag the cancerous particles with gold or palladium, but there are plenty of other toxic therapies that would be improved by targeting only cancer cells. The trick is to figure out how to select cancer cells and leave the rest of the body alone and do it in the body and not the test tube.

        Just a wee bit of handwaving....

      • []

        Another article in Googlespace suggests that gold nanoparticles stay inside blood vessels normally and come out where the vessel is leaky, as happens in tumors.

      • by Wdi ( 142463 )

        Platinum complexes are a standard treatment for many cancers. They intercalate in DNA, especially in rapidly dividing cells, and block DNA transscription.

        These contain isolated (but complexed) metal atoms, though, not nanoparticles. I do not know whether these compounds could also serve as effective electron sources on X-ray irradiation, or whether they might form nanoparticles in a tumor cell, or outside dead cells after killing them in their primary therapeutic function.

        • These contain isolated (but complexed) metal atoms, though, not nanoparticles. I do not know whether these compounds could also serve as effective electron sources on X-ray irradiation

          Most ranges of X-rays (possibly overlapping into the extreme UV) are caused by transitions in either direction between an electron in one of the innermost couple of electron shells and a "free" electron (absorb an X-ray and an electron gets kicked out ; have a free electron then relax into that hole and an X-ray gets emitted).

    • Most of the targeting is based on making the beam mainly hit the tumor that they want to hit. Methods include using a beam (you can't really focus x-rays), and making that beam enter form various angles so that the surrounding cells get a lower dose than what the beam hits. But that is very crude. It's like trying to kill your kidney while leaving your other organs intact by bashing you with a baseball bat from all sides instead of just bashing right at the kidney.

      Gold and platinum would have to accumulate

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Yep, I know someone working on their Phd on this exact topic and said that the Auger electron yield was lower than expected, in addition to other problems handling cancer cells (prematurely dying/temperature regulation/nanoparticles showing up where they shouldn't/etc/etc).

      Also, this PDF talks about a tunable monochromatic X-ray source as if they have to invent one. What the hell?? Just put a proposal in at a synchrotron.... if the spectral purity is too poor, find a facility that makes use of a DCM and a

  • Summary does not follow from headline. What does mundane x-ray therapy have to do with astronomy? No, I don't want to RTFA for that. You teased it in the headline, re-teased it in the first sentence of the summary, then explained it not. I have to read this summary in a sing-song version of an Australian accent with half my brain removed, while dangling shiny things in front of my face, in order to get the mood it's written in.

    • I've accepted that Slashdot is like a skin mag, the articles are mostly just an excuse...

    • by Bob the Super Hamste ( 1152367 ) on Tuesday July 26, 2011 @03:38PM (#36887500) Homepage
      They scientists discovered a unique property of certain x-rays that will cause metals like gold and platinum to emit electrons that can kill cancer but the electrons aren't powerful enough to damage neighboring cells. This discovery was made by astrophysicists who were doing computer simulation of emission spectrum of all the different elements so they could get a better understanding of the composition of stars. Now if you actually read the article you would have known this, it isn't very long and is a fairly easy read even for someone who isn't in the field.
      • It's actually in the summary as well:
        "...X-rays that are used by astronomers for determining the various chemical abundances inside stars..."
        So he complained after reading the headline, and part of the summary. In true Slashdot fashion.
        • by blair1q ( 305137 )

          No, I read the whole summary, and that is nothing but a recapitulation of the premise in the headline. It says nothing interesting about cosmic x-rays and treatment.

          And yes, I certainly could RTFA, but then why write a summary at all, if it's not going to summarize the main point in the headline so that I don't have to RTFA just to get the main point in the headline?

          This is /., not a click-through honeypot.

          • by jo_ham ( 604554 )

            Jesus fucking christ. If it doesn't fit in a twitter post you lazy fucks just don't want to know.

            "You mean I have to *read* something to understand it?!"

            • by blair1q ( 305137 )

              There's a reason the word "summary" isn't a synonym for "click here". If I have to click through just to understand the headline, then the summary did not summarize.

              • by jo_ham ( 604554 )

                The summary was perfectly succinct, and even featured the salient bit of information you were bitching about. You have to do more than skim read it and then immediately leap to the "reply" button though, which is clearly what you did.

            • Jesus fucking christ. If it doesn't fit in a twitter post you lazy fucks just don't want to know.

              Hi, welcome to slashdot, take a seat, I'll be right with you.

  • Gold and platinum will go to the tumor... and liver... and kidneys... etc... so this isn't so perfect either. Further, ionizing heavy metals isn't the same thing as ionizing cancer cells.

    A better option is probably something like the gamma knife, where multiple beams are focused to a single point within the tumor. This seems like a cheap and less effective way of evading patent law.
    • Re:Yeah but... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by jandoedel ( 1149947 ) on Tuesday July 26, 2011 @04:40PM (#36888102)

      The purpose is to surround the metals with a small layer of plasma. This plasma is what kills the cancer cells.

      This plasma will only occur where
      a) there is gold/platinum
      b) where they focus the X-rays. Focusing the X-rays is done just like your gamma knife: multiple beams from different directions, converging on the tumor.
      Since liver and kidneys are not radiated, you get no plasma there...

      So it's more precise than only using converging beams of X-rays.

    • it doesn't matter if the they also go to the liver and kidneys, because you don't zap the liver and kidneys with the X-rays anyway (assuming the tumor is elsewhere of course).

      And you don't need to ionoize cancer cells, smacking them with the electrons from the metal will do the job.

      Though of course this is someone who has "envisioned a prototype" which I think is the furthest from a working device I've ever heard described.

  • Gold and platinum... does anyone else see the problem here? (Hint: it won't be cheap)
    • by nedlohs ( 1335013 ) on Tuesday July 26, 2011 @04:56PM (#36888218)

      Cancer treatment already isn't cheap. The small amount of gold an platinum this would require will be swamped by the rounding error on the bill.

    • yes, but when you are finished with the treatment, doctors will tell you, 'You are golden'....
    • Gold and platinum... does anyone else see the problem here? (Hint: it won't be cheap)

      Nope, only you see this as a problem, and that is because you are commenting on something that you don't know anything about.

      Platinum-based drugs are the largest class of chemotherapy drugs, and yes, they are expensive. But so are the radiation treatments (radiologists, brain surgeons, physicists, and expensive equipment), hospital stays, oncologist consults, radiology studies (MRI, CT, PET), heroic surgeries, marrow stimulants, chemo symptom management, and probably about 100 other things I'm forgetting ri

    • by jsfs ( 1329511 )
      Most current cancer treatments already cost as much or more than the equivalent weights of precious metals. My mom's IV stuff alone was over $24,000 per bag, and there were a lot of bags. And anything that keeps the incredibly toxic substances away from your body is a plus. The chemo stuff is seriously harsh on people.
  • Cash in your tumors now! Tired of those old cancers lingering in your body, trying to kill you and wreck your life? Just zap those tumors with our finely-tuned X-rays, and send the biopsy to us for instant cash. Contact our website, and we'll send you a free postage-paid bio-hazard bag. What could be easier? With the price of gold skyrocketing every day, you'll take up smoking just to get in on this great offer!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    They seem to be oblivious to the fact that any benign tissue between the source and target will still be affected by the traversing x-rays.

    Kudos to astronomers doing quantum mechanical numerical analysis though. Anil Pradham & Sultana Nahar are wasting their talents peeping into telescopes all day.

    • They're not oblivious to that fact. That's the whole point. The aim is to get more effective therapy with lower doses of X-rays.
      If this plasma method only requires half the X-rays for the same effect, you will affect the healthy tissue 50% less.

  • >"prototype device capable of generating x-rays (gzipped PDF)"

    A file that is actually a PDF (which is already compressed) that is a SINGLE FILE that is tarred but named with "ppt" in it, and stuffed into a useless subdirectory called "FB01" and then gzipped??? Um.... yeesh.

  • ... when tumors infused with gold nanoparticles are the new chic for all the homeboys. Gold teeth are so yesterday, bro!

  • As a PhD candidate who works with noble metal nanoparticles on a daily basis, I have some issues with their work.

    1. How do they plan to get the particles to "naturally" accumulate in tumors without some sort of surface coating; specifically one incorporating some sort of tumor sensing molecule?

    2. If the nanoparticle is coated with some other molecule, do they still expect "low-energy" electrons to punch through without trouble? How low is "low-energy" anyway? In my experience, when dodecanethiol is attached

"For a male and female to live continuously together is... biologically speaking, an extremely unnatural condition." -- Robert Briffault