Ishwar Puri
Virginia Tech and Jadavpur University researchers use what they are calling Thermotherapy to kill cancerous tissue

Engineering researchers at Virginia Tech and Jadavpur University have found that cancerous cells can be pinpointed and killed through the use of hyperthermia

The lead researchers of the study includes Monrudee Liangruksa, a Virginia Tech graduate student in engineering science and mechanics; Ishwar Puri, professor and head of the department, and Ranjan Ganguly, of Jadavpur University's Department of Power Engineering in Kolkata, India. Together, these researchers have found a way to utilize hyperthermia as a way of elevating the temperature of tumor cells while making sure the healthy tissue surrounding these cells stay at a lower temperature. 

To do this, the research team induced the hyperthermia using ferrofluids, which are liquids that become heavily magnetized when in the presence of a magnetic field. Through the use of ferrofluids, magnetic nanoparticles are "suspended" in the non-polar state. 

"These fluids can then be magnetically targeted to cancerous tissues after intravenous application," said Puri. "The magnetic nanoparticles, each billionths of a meter in size, seep into the tissue of the tumor cell due to the high permeability of these vessels."

Researchers then expose the tumor to a high frequency alternating magnetic field, which heats the magnetic nanoparticles and results in the death of the tissue. They used temperatures between 41 and 45 degrees Celsius, which is enough to stop the growth of cancerous tissue. 

The process this research team used is called magnetic fluid hyperthermia, but they are calling it thermotherapy. Thermotherapy was necessary in the study because temperatures of 41 to 45 degrees Celsius can also kill healthy tissue in addition to the cancerous tissue. Thermotherapy insures that healthy tissue stays at lower temperatures. 

"The ideal hyperthermia treatment sufficiently increases the temperature of the tumor cells for about 30 minutes while maintaining the healthy tissue temperature below 41 degrees Celsius," said Puri. "Our ferrofluid-based thermotherapy can be also accomplished through thermoablation, which typically heats tissues up to 56 degrees Celsius to cause their death, coagulation, or carbonization by exposure to a noninvasive radio frequency, alternating current magnetic field. Local heat transfer from the nanoparticles increases the tissue temperature and ruptures the cell membranes."

The next step is to test their analytical approach on several different cancer cells by conducting experiments along with Dr. Elankumaran Subbiah from the Virginia-Maryland School of Veterinary Medicine. 

This study was presented at the 63rd annual meeting of the American Physical Society on November 23.

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