New research published in the journal Bioelectricity suggests that electricity and electromagnetic fields may deter the velocity of breast cancer metastasis. The finding offers a novel approach to fight metastatic breast cancer and other cancers.
Senior author Vish Subramaniam comments, "We think we can hinder metastasis by applying these fields, but we also think it may be possible to even destroy tumors using this approach. That is unclear at this stage, but we are working on understanding that - how big should the electromagnetic field be, how close should it be to the tumor? Those are the next questions we hope to answer."
So, how does it work? The researchers explain that applying electromagnetic fields can slow the metabolism of cancer cells – or even stop some metabolic processes altogether – by modifying the electrical fields inside a cell. Importantly, the application of such fields did not seem to impact healthy breast cells.
Lead author Travis Jones, a researcher at Ohio State, elaborates that the electromagnetic fields don’t affect all cells, only some, but this impact has an overall effect. "It makes some of them stop for a little while before they start to move, slowly, again," he said. "As a group, they appear to have split up. So how quickly the whole group is moving and for how long they are moving becomes affected."
Study co-author Jonathan Song, who is an associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Ohio State and co-director of Ohio State's Center for Cancer Engineering, adds that the technique is also advantageous because it is not necessary to touch the cancer cells in order to apply electromagnetic fields.
While the technique has only been tested in the laboratory, the team has hopes for future clinical trials. "Now that we know this, we can start to answer other questions, too," Subramaniam concluded. "How do we affect the metabolism to the point that we not only make it not move but we choke it, we completely starve it. Or can we slow it down to the point where it will always remain weak?"