Magnetic Hyperthermia: Using Magnetic Nanoparticles to "Burn" Cancer Cells


Scientists are now making nanoparticles that can combat all types of cancer / Photo by: HaHanna via Shutterstock


Cancer is a lethal disease that could start in one organ or part of the body before spreading. In fact, it's still difficult to treat some types of the disease—like pancreas, brain, or liver tumors—even with various approaches like chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or surgery. This inability to properly treat this disease results in the low survival rates for patients.

Fortunately, there are new therapies slowly emerging to treat cancer. One of which is therapeutic hyperthermia, which heats up tumors by firing nanoparticles into tumor cells.

Science Daily says this treatment is investigated in a new study published in EPJ B, in which Bulgarian researchers show that tumor cells' specific absorption rate of destructive heat relies on the size of the nanoparticles. The study also says that destructive heat also depends on the composition of the magnetic material utilized to send the heat to the tumor.

Magnetic nanoparticles are typically sent close to the tumor cells, which are then stimulated with the use of alternating magnetic fields. Hyperthermia therapy would then be considered effective if the tumor cells absorbed the nanoparticles well without being absorbed by the cells in healthy tissues. Therefore, the effectiveness of the treatment banks on the specific absorption rate of the cells.

The researchers—led by Angl Apostolova from the University of Architecture, Civil Engineering and Geodesy in Bulgaria—studied several nanoparticles composed of ferrite, an iron oxide material, which is incorporated with small amounts of copper, nickel, manganese, or cobalt atoms. This method is called dopping.

According to Science Daily, the team studied magnetic hyperthermia based on the said particles—both in mice and in cell cultures—for two distinguished heating approaches. It adds that the methods differ in terms of the way heat is produced in the particles; it's direct or indirect coupling between the magnetic field and the magnetic interaction of the nanoparticles.

These methods led to the conclusion that the absorption rate heavily relies on the diameter of the nanoparticles. The researchers found an increase in absorption rate as the diameter of the particles increases, but only if the dopping level of the material is high enough and the diameter does not go over a set maximum value (14 nanometers for cobalt dopping and 16 nanometers for copper).