Dropping a Bomb on Cancer

Cancer treatment with alpha radiation

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) As destructive as gamma radiation can be, alpha radiation is far more powerful. But due to its extremely short range, it's never been used to treat cancer. Until now.

Several Israeli scientists designed a radioactive wire that can be placed directly into tumors without any surgery required.

Direct placement inside the tumor allows full use of powerful alpha radiation in a long, lethal bombardment directly against the cancer cells. Researchers also claim the therapy provides permanent immunity from the cancer's return.

"Ask your doctor which clinical trials are open to you."

Yona Keisari, Ph.D. and Itzhak Kelson Ph.D. from Tel Aviv University developed a small wire out of radioactive elements for placement inside tumors. They refer to their device as DARTTM (Diffusing Alpha-emitters Radiation Therapy).

In contrast with laser-like gamma radiation, Kelson states alpha radiation "[is] like a cluster bomb." And after ten days the wire will no longer be radioactive.

Radiation in any form is a serious therapy with a long list of side effects, from things like diarrhea, dry skin, and hair loss all the way to increased risk of developing new cancers. Understandably, this therapy was designed for severe forms of cancer that have few options left for treatment.

Clinical trials in cancer patients are scheduled to begin this year in at the Rabin Medical Center in Israel.  Although there is no clinical data yet, studies in mice have shown that DARTTM decreased tumor recurrence to fifty percent in lung, pancreatic, colon, breast, and brain tumors.

On the other hand, all of the mice treated with surgery had tumor recurrence.

When asked about the application of his device, Keisari notes that "surgery can eliminate 80 to 90 percent of a tumor, chemotherapy another 5-15 percent." Unfortunately,  "there are often a small number of metastatic cells left in the body."

Keisari believes that as the cell breaks down from the alpha radiation, the release of cancer molecules from the dying cell allows the body to recognize and attack it in the future. This device may give hope to to patients diagnosed with cancers that do not respond well to any current available treatment. 

Results were published in the January, 2012 edition of the medical journal Translational Research.

Both Keisari and Kelson are members of Althera Medical, which is commercializing the technique in Israel and in the United States. Cost of the device is not available.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
January 21, 2012
Last Updated:
January 27, 2012