Study: Electromagnetic Fields May Inhibit the Spread of Breast Cancer

March 24, 2021
Skylar Kenney, Assistant Editor

Electricity may slow the speed at which breast cancer cells spread through the body, and in some cases may stop them entirely, according to a new study published in Bioelectricity. The research also found that electromagnetic fields might hinder the amount of breast cancer cells that spread.

The study authors suggest that electromagnetic fields could slow or stop certain processes of a cancer cell’s metabolism, impairing its ability to spread. The electromagnetic fields did not have any similar effect on normal breast cells.

“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,” said Vish Subramaniam, PhD, senior author of the paper and former professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at The Ohio State University, in a press release. “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.”

The experiment was performed on isolated human breast cancer cells in a lab, and the technique has not yet been tested clinically. According to the study, the electromagnetic fields appear to slow down the metabolism of cancer cells selectively by changing the electrical fields inside an individual cell.

These electromagnetic fields were applied to cancerous cells without touching them. Accessing the internal workings of the cell without surgery or other invasive procedures is new to the study of how cancer metastasizes, according to Subramaniam.

"Now that we know this, we can start to answer other questions, too," Subramaniam said. "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?"

REFERENCE

Electromagnetic fields hinder spread of breast cancer, study shows [news release]. EurekAlert; March 17, 2021. Accessed March 22, 2021. https://new.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2021-03/osu-efh031721.php