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Jelly made of alcohol could help kill off cancer

A new study says that a jelly-like implant, filled with pure alcohol could be a powerful treatment for cancer.

The implant is injected into the middle of a tumour, where it slowly releases tiny amounts of ethanol — the pure alcohol that makes up, for example, 12 to 14 per cent of wine.

The study finds that as it comes into contact with the tumour cells, the ethanol destroys them by ‘poisoning’ vital proteins the cells need to replicate.

While doctors have known for sometime now that ‘drowning’ cancer cells in pure alcohol can be an effective way of killing them, the problem is that the alcohol also destroys the healthy cells surrounding the malignancy. Furthermore, it takes relatively large amounts of alcohol to completely eradicate tumour cells, in the process, exposing normal cells to its

The procedure, as such, has been confined to cancers where the tumour is contained within a fibrous capsule that prevents the alcohol leaking out, such as small liver tumours.

The implant, developed at Duke University in North Carolina, has so far only been tested on animals but could indicate that alcohol might be used more widely to wipe out most tumours.

The study saw scientists mixing ethanol with ethyl cellulose and creating a a firm, jelly-like substance, which, once it comes into contact with the moist conditions inside the body, gradually starts to dissolve over the space of a week or so, releasing its alcoholic cargo.

According to the scientists, the key is that only small amounts of alcohol are released into the area of the tumour.

The study, conducted on mice showed the tumours completely disappeared in the seven mice given the implant, whereas only four out of seven injected with alcohol saw tumours disappear.

The results were published recently in the journal Scientific Reports.

Researchers said the amount of alcohol in the gel implant was a fraction of that needed when injected, reducing the amount of possible damage to healthy cells and  the gel could potentially be used to treat other cancers, such as breast, and are planning trials to treat pre-cancerous lesions on the cervix.

One of the biggest advantages is that the treatment could be very cheap, as ethanol costs less than £1.50 a gallon.

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