After a cancer is discovered in a patient, the biggest fear is that it will metastasize to other parts of the body. Currently, there’s really nothing that doctors can do to alter a cancer’s ability to shed tumor cells that can easily travel far away from their birth site. Now, researchers at Ohio State University have discovered that low intensity electromagnetic fields can be used to halt the ability of cancer cells to spread around the body.
What’s particularly remarkable, and will hopefully form the basis for a future medical device, is that the cancer cells change their behavior not only depending on the electromagnetic field’s strength, but also its orientation.
The team used a Helmholz coil to generate well controlled electromagnetic fields and expose various types of breast cancer cell to them. A microscope allowed the researchers to monitor the movement of the cells, through which they discovered how various fields affected cell spreading behavior.
Triple-negative breast cancer cells, which are currently very difficult to fight using existing methods, were actually the most responsive to the electromagnetic fields.
Perhaps the technology will one day be used to effectively localize cancers in place and prevent their spread while creating more time to deliver therapy to kill the initial tumor.
Study in Communications Biology: Electromagnetic fields alter the motility of metastatic breast cancer cells
Top image: Dr. Lance Liotta Laboratory, via Wikimedia Commons