One of Ireland's largest hospitals is about to begin tests on a possible cure for bone cancer and arthritis. The clinical trial will treat 50 patients with secondary bone tumours using low frequency electro-magnetic radiation, writes Deborah Culhane.

St.Luke's hospital in Dublin decided to sanction the trial after a preliminary study by Denis Bailey, a radiographer at St.Luke's, showed that doses of non-ionising radiation relieved pain in patients with arthritis. He believes that if it can relieve arthritis symptoms it may also lessen pain caused by cancer and perhaps cure the disease.

In the past, treatment with electromagnetic radiation has been thought to cause cancer, but Bailey's research shows that extra-low frequency (ELF) doses can be therapeutic. Patients are treated with doses of radiation produced by a generator that sends out low-energy (less than 300HZ) waves at between five to fifteen pulses per second. "The pulses are non-invasive," said Bailey. Nothing actually touches the patient."

This produces a low energy magnetic field which in turn causes an electrical pulse in the tissue, changing its calcium content and its biochemical activities. The patient feels nothing.

Bailey first began using ELF after trials in Italy and America showed improvements in some arthritis patients. I'm not sure what magneto-therapy can do for cancer, but we are exploring the potential," he said.

Pat Cooney, head of clinical engineering at St.Luke's said: "Anything that can bring forward treatment for cancer is progress. If the project is successful, the department will assess the safety of new equipment before using it in the hospital."