Space Age Metal That Destroyed Dinosaurs Could Help Attack Cancer
A space age metal commonly believed to have gotten enriched in the earth's crust by a meteorite that destroyed the dinosaurs - could be used in a treatment that destroys cancer cells selectively using light.
A space age metal commonly believed to have gotten enriched in the earth's crust by a meteorite that destroyed the dinosaurs - could be used in a treatment that destroys cancer cells selectively using light.(Photo: iStockphoto)

Space Age Metal That Destroyed Dinosaurs Could Help Attack Cancer

Treating cancer tumours (without side effects) is one of the biggest medical challenges of our time. But to solve this modern-day problem, a group of scientists has found a 66-million-year old metal as an answer.

Yes, iridium - a space age metal commonly believed to have gotten enriched in the earth's crust by a meteorite that destroyed the dinosaurs - could be used in a treatment that destroys cancer cells selectively using light.

A study by scientists at the University of Warwick, along with scientists in China, France, Switzerland and Heriot-Watt University, has developed a "technique using light to activate a cancer-killing compound of Iridium that attacks, for the first time, a vital energy source in cancer cells even under hypoxia," reports Science Daily.

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Administering this method could enable clinicians to direct the light to *specific* regions of the cancer tumour only, and spare the normal tissues from damage.
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According to the Science Daily report, the technique would particularly be suited to treat cancers of the bladder, lung, esophageal, brain and skin.

There is an increasing interest in reducing the side effects of cancer treatment as much as possible and anything that can be selective in what it targets will help with that. The compound that we have developed would not be very toxic at all, we would give it to the cancer cells, allow a little time for it to be taken up, then we would irradiate it with light and activate it in those cells. We would expect killing of those cancer cells to occur very quickly compared with current methods
Professor Peter Sadler, University of Warwick, Department of Chemistry

Once the Iridium compound has been light-activated, it can attack the energy source in the cancer cells and catalytically destroy that co-enzyme or change it into an oxidised form. This will upset the energy source in a cancer cell and 'effectively cut off the tumour's power source.

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