In a Few Years, Metal Could be Curing Cancer

Note: This idea is part of a moonshot technologies project. Callisto is a hypothetical company.

40% of people will develop some form of cancer during their lifetime. That’s a lot higher than most people would expect, yet it is a part of life for so many around the world. By 2050, it is projected that total global cancer cases will double, with even more people needing treatment. With cancer being a problem that is only growing, we need treatments for it that can grow at the same pace and help people overcome the health struggles that come with cancer.

This challenge is a complicated one to go about solving, but it is one that our team, was eager to tackle.

The Need for A Better Cancer Treatment

Cancer is a disease where some cells multiply without dying, creating a dangerous excess of cells. Besides surgery, the two most common treatments for cancer are chemotherapy and radiation therapy. They destroy rapidly dividing cells in the body to eliminate cancer but these methods often kill perfectly healthy cells as well due to how fast they divide. This can lead to many different side effects some of which include hair loss and changes, anemia, and infertility, that can follow survivors for years after treatment. Additionally, these treatments have varying levels of success depending on the tumor and don’t always eliminate cancer in its entirety and some patients see the disease return later down the line.

Targeted therapies that are supposed to only target cancer cells exist as well, but they also lead to a lot of side effects. In fact, with many targeted therapies, negative side effects are tied to better elimination of cancers.

The reason that we came up with Callisto was to make up for what current treatments lack. We focused on optimizing the effectiveness of treatment across tumor types and drastically reducing treatment side effects.

Callisto: A Novel Cancer Treatment

Our team developed Callisto to be a revolutionary cancer treatment in terms of effectiveness and impact on health. Our solution will use a range of existing and developing technologies from antibodies that can slow cancer’s growth to nanoparticles that can induce cell death in cancer cells.

Our Solution Step By Step

Step One

Angiogenesis inhibitors slow tumor growth.

Angiogenesis is the process of blood vessel formation. When a tumor grows, it uses vascular endothelial growth factor proteins (VEGF) to signal the body to grow new blood vessels to the tumor, supplying blood and oxygen that helps the tumor to grow further.

One current method of targeted cancer therapy blocks this process through antibodies called angiogenesis inhibitors. These angiogenesis inhibitors bind to VEGF proteins to suppress signals that create blood vessels going to the tumor. This then deprives the tumor of blood and oxygen, severely limiting the growth of tumors.

For Callisto’s solution we will use angiogenesis inhibitors administered intravenously to slow the growth of tumors as soon as they are identified.

Step Two

Liposomes deliver metallic nanoparticles to cancer cells.

The center of the liposome is where the nanoparticles are stored.

Liposomes are a spherical sac full of phospholipids molecules formed artificially to carry drugs or other substances to the tissues. These would travel to cancer cells after being ingested orally, then would deliver the magnetic nanoparticles into the cells.

In numerous studies they have been shown to be effective for targeted drug delivery to cancer cells because they protect some drugs against chemical and immunological breakdown, and protect them against the effect of enzymes. In turn, Liposomes give lowered toxicity by using a lower dosage because of the maintained drug levels. Delivering drugs to cells through liposomes is beneficial because have been shown to be beneficial for stabilizing compounds and overcoming obstacles to tissues to effectively deliver the drug to the target.

Step Three

Metallic nanoparticles kill the cancer cells.

Simulated image of metallic nanoparticles around a tumor.

Metallic nanoparticles are in essence really tiny bits of pure metal. What makes them effective for treating cancer is their size and how they can be manipulated. Once inside of the surface of cancer cells, an external magnetic field is applied to the area where the magnetic nanoparticles are located. This spins the nanoparticles and that spinning rips the cancer cells apart, killing them.

Step Four

Macrophage cells extract the nanoparticles.

A macrophage cell.

Due to the toxicity of these nanoparticles, they can cause negative side effects when left inside the body long term. Though current studies leave the nanoparticles inside without too many complications, we want to remove them to cut off any possibility of it damaging a patient’s health.

metallic nanoparticles can be difficult to remove, but macrophage cells (cells typically used to detect and destroy bacteria) can engulf then carry the nanoparticles to the kidneys where they are filtered out then removed from the body through urine.

What Still Needs to Be Addressed

The science and technology that will enable Callisto to work is still being developed, although it is not far away. Most of these hurdles lie with the metallic nanoparticles because they are the most experimental part of this solution. Two major things need to be assessed to be able to move metallic nanoparticles from studies to actually treating cancer.

Further Study

Metallic nanoparticles have been used in human trials, but requires further study with a greater number of patients in order to figure out how to optimize the treatment. This will take a few years, but scientists are on track to make a breakthrough in this method that could make cancer treatment more effective and safe.

Long Term Effects

There is a chance that the macrophage cells will not be able to extract all of the metallic nanoparticles from the body after the cancer cells have been killed. Due to the toxicity of these particles, there is a chance that this could lead to side effects.

While in previous studies, metallic nanoparticles have been left inside the body with no reported adverse side effects, and Callisto plans to remove them following treatment, it is best to exercise caution and ensure that a potential small amount of particles left in the body would not be harmful in the long term.

Macrophage Cells

The macrophage cells are able to remove most of the metallic nanoparticles from the body, but there is a chance that there will be some left behind. This technology needs to be further developed so that if the results of the study of metallic nanoparticles show that small amounts can have negative effects, the macrophage cells are prepared to remove enough nanoparticles so that no negative effects are experienced.

The Future with Callisto

The studies behind Callisto’s solution show that this solution has the power to transform lives. One study stated that:

“Noble metal nanoparticles have shown to be powerful tools against cancer though still in need of further optimization and characterization.”

So while these particles have an immense capacity for change, they still need to be further tested and developed, which is what makes this a moonshot idea. While we won’t see these metallic nanoparticles in action this year, they are coming and will take the world by storm as they revolutionize cancer treatment. Coupled with the slowing of the growth of the tumor and using liposomes to directly deliver the nanoparticles to the cancer site, the efficacy rate for Callisto would be even higher. It is precisely because of these promising studies that we are confident that Callisto would be able to make cancer treatment more effective, less physically tasking, and quicker, enabling the 40% of people who will develop cancer to overcome it and go on to live healthy and happy lives.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store