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Poisoning the Well

Treating inoperable kidney tumours by cutting off their blood supply and releasing drugs via tiny beads

10 July 2022

Poisoning the Well

An invading army surrounds a city’s walls and… waits. Cutting off or poisoning a city’s water supply was a cruel way to speed up surrender. Scientists are using similar tactics to fight cancer. The left panel shows the blood vessels of a kidney with cancer – the patient’s tumour is the pale egg shape on the left side of the organ. The best treatment is surgery to remove the tumour, but this isn’t always possible. Researchers have developed another option for these cases. In the right panel, doctors have targeted the arteries feeding the tumour with a catheter. They inject tiny beads into these blood vessels which block the blood supply to the tumour and release anti-cancer drugs. Six months after treatment, over eight in ten tumours had either shrunk or stayed the same size. None of the patients had serious side effects. This treatment could soon be available as standard for patients with inoperable kidney cancer.

Written by Henry Stennett

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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