A novel targeted therapy using radio waves may help block the growth of liver cancer cells anywhere in the body without damaging healthy ones.
The research team from Wake Forest School of Medicine in the US delivered radio frequencies to mice that had been injected with human cancer cells to replicate hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most common type of liver cancer.
The radio frequencies delivered were same as those delivered to patients with HCC in Europe, where the device has been approved for use on people, researchers said in a statement.
“Our study showed that the radiofrequency delivered was at low and safe levels. It was actually lower than those generated by holding a cell phone close to the ear,” said Boris Pasche, from Wake Forest School of Medicine.
The researchers created a hand-held device to deliver cancer-specific, amplitude-modulated radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (AM RF EMF) which are programmed specifically for HCC.
The device is about the size of a VHS tape cassette and emits radio frequencies via a spoon-shaped element that is placed on the patient’s tongue.
The treatment is administered three times a day for one hour at patient’s home.
“The frequencies used are specific to the patient’s type of cancer as identified through tumour biopsies or blood work,” Pasche said.
It activated a calcium channel on surface of HCC tumour cells but not on non-cancerous cells, according to the study published in the journal EBioMedicine.
“We discovered that a specific calcium channel, Cav3.2, was acting like an antenna for the radio signals we sent out, which allowed calcium to penetrate the HCC cell membrane and go into the cell, triggering HCC growth arrest,” Pasche said.
“Our team found it was the influx of calcium that stopped the growth of HCC cells and shrunk, and in some cases eliminated, the tumours. This effect was the same even if the cancer had metastasised to other parts of the body,” he said.
According to Pasche, the team will next identify the exact signalling cascade within the tumour cell that leads to the anti-cancer effects.