The information gathered from studying the universe is showing promise in yielding new cancer treatments, US astronomers have said.
Studying how chemical elements emit and absorb radiation inside stars and around black holes, Ohio State University astronomers Sultana Nahar and Anil Pradhan are working with medical physicists and radiation oncologists to develop a potential new radiation treatment-one that is intended to be tougher on tumors, but gentler on healthy tissue.
They have discovered that heavy metals such as iron release low-energy electrons when exposed to X-rays at specific energies.
Their discovery raises the possibility that implants made from certain heavy elements could enable doctors to obliterate tumors with low-energy electrons, while exposing healthy tissue to much less radiation than is possible today.
Similar implants could enhance medical diagnostic imaging, they said.
"We believe that nanoparticles embedded in tumors can absorb X-rays efficiently at particular frequencies, resulting in electron ejections that can kill malignant cells," Nahar said.
While typical therapeutic X-ray machines such as CT scanners generate full-spectrum X-rays, hospitals could employ RNPT using only K-alpha-rays, which would greatly reduce a patient's radiation exposure, the researchers said.