Skip to main content

A coin-sized device could have big effect on treating cancer with electric fields

cancer electric field device screen shot 2016 07 06 at 7 09 21 pm
There might be a new cancer treatment on the horizon, and it’s the size of a coin. A new device developed by a team of researchers at MIT’s Singapore research center seeks to test the effect of electric fields on the spread of malignant cancer cells. But more compelling still, this tiny device may be able to personalize cancer treatment on a patient-by-patient basis.

While electric field therapy in and of itself is not a novel concept, its use still ignites some controversy, as scientists are a bit hazy as to how safe the technique is. But the Massachusetts Institute of Technology team hopes that this new device will help shed some much-needed light on the topic. The researchers have already determined that “a range of low-intensity, middle-frequency electric fields effectively stopped breast and lung cancer cells from growing and spreading, while having no adverse effect on neighboring healthy cells.”

Related Videos

The goal, MIT says, is to help scientists determine precisely what range of electric fields would be appropriate to treat breast, lung, and other kinds of cancers, all in a non-invasive way. “We hope this device will increase interest by researchers who are exploring the effect of electric fields on different types of cancer,” said research scientist Andrea Pavesi. “In our study, we noticed the effect was limited to the cancer cell at the tested frequencies and intensities, but we really need to explore other cells and parameters.”

While Pavesi notes that “scientists have been trying to figure out a lot of different recipes to try to stimulate the cell with an electric field,” he adds that the key aim is to adjust the intensity and frequency of the fields to affect only cancer cells, leaving others completely unaffected. If researchers can get a solid handle on this notion, it seems that the possibilities could be very exciting.

Further, when it comes to personalized medicine, research scientist Giulia Adriani notes that the device could test whether a certain recipe, or electric field, works for a specific person. “In three days, you can have an answer,” Adriani said. “And for many cancer patients who are dying of metastasis, time is everything.”

Full results of the study have been published in Scientific Reports.

Editors' Recommendations

Do you need a smart toothbrush?
Oral-B iO Series 9 Smart Toothbrush in hand

When will we come to a time when every accessory in our home is smart? Is there a limit to what should actually be smart? Let's talk about a category that may not be what you traditionally think of as a smart device -- the toothbrush.

I'm all for having smarter health products and having the best technology in our hygiene products (like bidets), but I've not put a lot of thought into how, or why, my toothbrush is smart. It's time to dive in and see if it's even worth it.

Read more
How Hawk-Eye cameras are making football fairer and faster than ever
Hawk-Eye goal line camera

Football can be a tough sport -- and nowhere more than at its most elite level where highly trained players compete for gridiron glory. There is a lot at stake, and a lot that can go wrong, too. From calls that are tough to make in real-time to the ever-present risk of season-ending injuries, you need a whole lot of eyes on the game to ensure that it runs smoothly.

Hawk-Eye is a company that's there to lend an automated assist. Used in an ever-growing number of sports, including the NFL, Hawk-Eye's tech consists of synchronized multi-angle cameras that can help track large numbers of data points on the sports field.

Read more
The NFL wants to predict injuries before they happen. Here’s how
A man sets up RFID technology in the Ravens stadium.

For the athletes who compete at the highest levels of sport, preventing injury can sometimes seem impossible. And in most cases, it is.

When you put two dozen of the country’s most elite players -- with adrenaline pumping through their veins -- in a 100-yard playground where they're told to bump, push, and tackle one another in pursuit of glory, things are bound to get boisterous. Bones break, tendons snap, and heads collide.

Read more