Nav: Home

Electromagnetic fields may hinder spread of breast cancer cells

August 08, 2019

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Electromagnetic fields might help prevent some breast cancers from spreading to other parts of the body, new research has found.

The study showed that low intensity electromagnetic fields hindered the mobility of specific breast cancer cells by preventing the formation of long, thin extensions at the edge of a migrating cancer cell. The research was done on cells in a lab, and the concept hasn't yet been tested in animals or humans. The study was published today in the journal Communications Biology.

"A cancer cell has a tendency to do the most destructive thing imaginable," said Jonathan Song, lead author of the study. Song is an assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at The Ohio State University and a member of the molecular biology and cancer genetics program at Ohio State's Comprehensive Cancer Center.

That ability to not only proliferate locally but spread throughout the body is what makes cancer so devastating -- and what prompted the research team to examine individual cancer cells to understand what makes them so harmful, Song said.

"One very destructive thing these cells do is migrate to distant areas of the body," he said. "And what we learned here is that it seems by treating them with a certain class of electric field we are altering their potential to spread somehow."

The research team, which included engineers and cancer biologists, found that cancer cells appeared to sense both the presence of the electromagnetic fields, and also the direction from which the fields were coming.

To study these effects, the researchers built an instrument called a Helmholz coil that allowed them to apply uniform electromagnetic energy to different types of breast cancer cells. In addition, the researchers engineered an apparatus that enabled them to track continuously the trajectories of migrating breast cancer cells while viewing them under a microscope. This apparatus, Song said, "recreates and mimics what actually happens in the body in a controllable environment that we can easily test and observe." Their goal was to see if and how the cells responded to that energy, and what role electromagnetic fields might play in treating breast cancer in the future.

They found that metastatic triple-negative breast cancer cells -- cancer cells that, by their nature, do not respond to hormonal therapy or to treatments that target a gene commonly expressed in breast cancer cells -- were the most sensitive to electromagnetic fields.

And, in their tests, they found that certain drug therapies -- and specifically one that targets a pathway for cancer called AKT -- could enhance the ability of the electromagnetic fields to block the cancer cells from spreading.

Because this research took place in a laboratory using a model the researchers designed to mimic the environment in which breast cancer cells form, the consequences of these findings for patients are still to be validated.

"But what we showed, biologically, is that these cancer cells are becoming profoundly less metastatic, which is a very important finding," Song said.

Their findings represent a significant step for researchers working to isolate the ways cancer cells couple with other cells and spread. Song said future research could expand to test electromagnetic fields and targeted molecular therapies in mice and, if those tests prove promising, to humans.
-end-
Other senior authors from Ohio State on the study were Ramesh Ganju, professor and vice chair of experimental pathology; Vish Subramaniam, professor and chair of mechanical and aerospace engineering; and Ayush Garg, a mechanical engineering PhD student. Additional Ohio State researchers are: in the Song lab, Sarah Moss, Jessica Ferree and Prabhat Kumar; in the Subramaniam lab, Travis Jones and Deepa Subramaniam; and in the Ganju lab, Sanjay Mishra, Kirti Kaul and Dinesh Ahirwar.

Ohio State University

Related Science Articles:

PETA science group promotes animal-free science at society of toxicology conference
The PETA International Science Consortium Ltd. is presenting two posters on animal-free methods for testing inhalation toxicity at the 56th annual Society of Toxicology (SOT) meeting March 12 to 16, 2017, in Baltimore, Maryland.
AAAS and March for Science partner to uphold science
AAAS, the world's largest general scientific organization, announced Thursday that it will partner with the March for Science, a nonpartisan set of activities that aim to promote science education and the use of scientific evidence to inform policy.
Citizen Science in the Digital Age: Rhetoric, Science and Public Engagement
James Wynn's timely investigation highlights scientific studies grounded in publicly gathered data and probes the rhetoric these studies employ.
Science/Science Careers' survey ranks top biotech, pharma, and biopharma employers
The Science and Science Careers' 2016 annual Top Employers Survey polled employees in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and related industries to determine the 20 best employers in these industries as well as their driving characteristics.
Three natural science professors win TJ Park Science Fellowship
Professor Jung-Min Kee (Department of Chemistry, UNIST), Professor Kyudong Choi (Department of Mathematical Sciences, UNIST), and Professor Kwanpyo Kim (Department of Physics, UNIST) are the recipients of the Cheong-Am (TJ Park) Science Fellowship of the year 2016.
More Science News and Science Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Erasing The Stigma
Many of us either cope with mental illness or know someone who does. But we still have a hard time talking about it. This hour, TED speakers explore ways to push past — and even erase — the stigma. Guests include musician and comedian Jordan Raskopoulos, neuroscientist and psychiatrist Thomas Insel, psychiatrist Dixon Chibanda, anxiety and depression researcher Olivia Remes, and entrepreneur Sangu Delle.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#537 Science Journalism, Hold the Hype
Everyone's seen a piece of science getting over-exaggerated in the media. Most people would be quick to blame journalists and big media for getting in wrong. In many cases, you'd be right. But there's other sources of hype in science journalism. and one of them can be found in the humble, and little-known press release. We're talking with Chris Chambers about doing science about science journalism, and where the hype creeps in. Related links: The association between exaggeration in health related science news and academic press releases: retrospective observational study Claims of causality in health news: a randomised trial This...