IT IS more than 50 years since “Fantastic Voyage” hit the cinemas. The film’s premise, shrinking a submarine and her crew to the point where they can travel through a patient’s bloodstream to repair damage in situ, though entertaining, remains as absurd as it was in 1966.
Not so the idea that therapeutic machines small enough to circulate in this way might be built. Indeed, perhaps inspired by the film, several such efforts have been made. Some are drug-delivery devices. Some are ways of concentrating externally applied energy into tissue that needs to be killed. And they are starting to get clinical approval.
The latest attempt, by Vladimir Zharov of the University of Arkansas and Mark Stockman of Georgia State University involves injecting cancer patients with hordes of tiny lasers that will seek out and destroy circulating tumour cells (CTCs).