Rewriting Life

Microwave Tumors

Missile detection technology may provide the future treatment of choice for breast cancer. Alan J. Fenn of MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory developed the system as a phased-array radar antenna to foil enemy jamming. Searching for other applications when military funding dried up, Fenn stumbled onto the possibility of using his creation’s precisely controlled emissions of microwave energy to treat cancer. Earlier attempts to use microwaves to kill cancer cells failed because of the difficulty in focusing the energy to destroy deep-seated tumors without burning surrounding tissue. Fenn’s anti-jamming algorithm precisely shapes the microwave beam to do just that. After giving patients a local anesthetic, doctors insert two needle probes into the tumor to measure temperature and microwave energy levels. They then heat the tumor to about 45 C for 20 minutes. Patients can go home with a couple of Band-Aids.

In early trials, a single microwave treatment shrunk tumors by half within 10 days-a result that requires months of chemotherapy or radiation. Celsion, of Columbia, Md., has licensed the technology and hopes to adapt it to treat tumors in the prostate, lung, liver and pancreas as well.

Uh oh–you've read all of your free articles for this month.

Insider Premium
$179.95/yr US PRICE

More from Rewriting Life

Reprogramming our bodies to make us healthier.

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe and become an Insider.
  • Insider Premium {! insider.prices.premium !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Our award winning magazine, unlimited access to our story archive, special discounts to MIT Technology Review Events, and exclusive content.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly home delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website.

    The Download. Our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation.

    Access to the Magazine archive. Over 24,000 articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips.

    Special Discounts to select partner offerings

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Ad-free web experience

    First Look. Exclusive early access to stories.

    Insider Conversations. Listen in as our editors talk to innovators from around the world.

  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}* Best Value

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus ad-free web experience, select discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly home delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website.

    The Download. Our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation.

    Access to the Magazine archive. Over 24,000 articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips.

    Special Discounts to select partner offerings

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Ad-free web experience

  • Insider Basic {! insider.prices.basic !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six issues of our award winning magazine and daily delivery of The Download, our newsletter of what’s important in technology and innovation.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly home delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website.

    The Download. Our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation.

/
You've read all of your free articles this month. This is your last free article this month. You've read of free articles this month. or  for unlimited online access.