'Nanocell' brings hope for cancer treatment

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The Independent Online

Medical scientists have designed a tiny "smart bomb" that can detonate inside a tumour to destroy the cancerous cells.

The miniature device is built like a double-skinned balloon and packed with drugs to cut off the tumour's blood supply and poison the cancer cells. The device is called a "nanocell" because it is so small - less than 200 nanometres, or billionths of a metre - and because its design is similar to that of a living cell.

In trials on laboratory mice, published today in the journal Nature, the scientists were able to extend the lives of the animals by more than twice the average time they survived when using the best available anti-cancer drugs.

David Mooney, a medical engineer at Harvard University, warned it could be years before the nanocell is used in human treatment. "The effect of the sequential delivery of these two drugs on tumour growth is dramatic, but we cannot assume a quick translation of these results to therapy for humans," he said.