A brain cancer diagnosis may be less frightening in a few years, thanks to research from the University of Wollongong and Australia's Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation.
A new magnetic nanoparticle could be used in combination with radiation treatment and heat therapy to kill cancer cells, while leaving healthy cells intact.
In Australia, the five-year survival rate for brain cancer is 22 per cent.
Head of Targeted Nano-Therapies at UoW's Centre for Medical Radiation Physics, Dr Moeava Tehei, said current treatments for brain cancer could also cause brain damage in survivors.
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However, the nanoparticle is toxic only to tumour cells, and can help target radiation therapy to tumour cells.
ANSTO's Instrument Scientist Dr Kirrily Rule, who is an Adjunct Professor of Physics at UOW and a co author of the paper, supervised research into the magnetic and chemical changes of the nanoparticles.
"We used our neutron instrument, Echidna, to see if the magnetic properties of the nanoparticles changed at different temperatures," Dr Rule said.
"What this means is we could potentially use these types of nanoparticles, in combination with other cancer treatments, to directly target deadly brain tumours. I've been investigating magnetic materials for many years but being able to conduct experiments like this that could ultimately save lives was exciting."
Dr Tehei said a multi-disciplinary approach was essential to the research.
"To find proper treatment, you need to have this environment," he said.
"Physicists to understand the physics of the nanoparticle, biologists who understand the tumour cells and chemists who understand how this can be used with other medical therapies."
Another essential member of the team was lab rat Martin, who Dr Tehei described as "the star".
"We used the nanoparticles on a rat with a grade four tumour, resistant to radiotherapy and chemotherapy," he said.
"Martin's tumour was cured and he lived a full life."
The study is still in preliminary stages, but if all goes well it may be ready for human trials within the next five years.
The collaborators from the University of Wollongong include researchers from the Centre for Medical Radiation Physics, the School of Physics, the School of Chemistry and Molecular Bioscience and the Institute for Superconducting and Electronic Materials.
Clinical partners included the Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute, and the department of radiation Oncology at Prince of Wales Hospital.