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...And optimism about a novel therapy.

...and optimism about a novel therapy

A custom-designed, boron-containing compound that tumor cells absorb and retain preferentially has potential as a cancer therapy, scientists report. When the compound is irradiated with a beam of "slow neutrons" -- a form of low-energy radiation that does not by itself cause tissue damage -- the boron atoms split and "explode" like tiny atomic bombs, killing the cancer cell. Researchers say experiments on cultured hamster cells and in mice with cancer indicate the treatment is one of the more promising new applications of "neutron capture therapy." Scientists have experimented with similar treatments since the 1950s, but with poor results.

Stephen B. Kahl and his colleagues at the University of California, San Francisco, deeloped the molecular "package bomb" as a 20-sided solid with one atom of boron-10 -- a neutron-absorbing isotope of boron--at each of the molecule's 12 corners. Four or more of these icosahedrons are bound together to a molecule of porphyrin, an iron-containing molecule that remains preferentially incancer cells.

The advantages of this approach are many, Ralph Fairchild of the Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, N.Y., told SCIENCE NEWS. Since neutron beams can penetrate far into the body, even deep-seated tumors can be targeted, he says. And because the boronated compound actually enters the tumor cells-rather than simply binding to the outside membranes as is the case with similar experimental therapies--the approach is effective withonly one-tenth the amount of boron that would otherwise be required. Boron is normally nontoxic but becomes radioactive when exposed to slow neutrons. Fairchild notes that Kahn's boron compound is the most efective of a half-dozen target compounds his team has looked at so far.

Within one to two years, the San Francisco researchers say, clinical tests may begin on patients with a deadly form of brain tumor called glioma. Preliminary experimental results were presented recently at the American Chemical Society's national meeting in Los Angeles.
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Title Annotation:cancer therapy using boron-containing compound
Publication:Science News
Date:Oct 15, 1988
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