RESEARCH Homing-in on cancerous cells

Click to follow
The Independent Online
A new kind of cancer-killing "nuclear missile" which can seek and destroy tumours with radiation has been developed by scientists. The weapon, devised by researchers at Nottingham University, is an antibody with a "warhead" in the form of a cancer-killing radioactive particle.

Antibodies, part of the body's own defence system, are able to home-in on tumours like a guided missile by locking on to a substance which occurs on the growth's surface. Radiotherapy can therefore be directed straight at a tumour, unlike a radiation beam, which kills healthy cells in its path as well as the cancerous ones.

The technique was first developed in the 1980s, but until now the antibodies used have been too big and cumbersome.

Now the Nottingham team, led by Dr Mike Price, has created a smaller, stripped-down version which is better at piercing a tumour's armour and moves round the body more quickly.

The team believes the mini-antibody will not only hit primary targets, but also secondary cancers which develop in later stages of the disease. A special camera can be used to track the "missiles" as they home in.