Diamonds for cancer therapy: short film promotes a big idea

Posted on November 16, 2012

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Watch the three-minute  film here – and register your vote

A short film featuring La Trobe University Physics Lecturer Dr David Hoxley is the only Australian finalist in the international Focus Forward – Short Films, Big Ideas competition after beating entries from 69 countries.

It is one of twenty just-announced finalists vying for a grand jury prize of $100,000 to be awarded at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival in January.

The competition is hosted by documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock, best known for his film ‘Super Size Me’. It is underwritten by GE to highlight ‘exceptional people and world-changing ideas’ that have, or have the potential to make an impact on the course of human development.

The three-minute film—Diamonds on the Inside—focuses on Dr Hoxley’s research into diamonds as a tool to help cancer patients, which he hopes may eventually take ‘the in-patient hospital experience out of the equation’ for them.

‘Diamonds could be the perfect biomedical material for obtaining diagnostic information to help define the best dose of chemotherapy,’ he said.

Biocompatible and cheap enough

Dr Hoxley in La Trobe's Physics lab working with diamonds

Dr Hoxley in La Trobe’s Physics lab working with diamonds

‘They are biocompatible and cheap enough to be considered for use as sensors inside the body. Some cancer treatments require monitoring of the blood and diamonds show promise as a sensor for helping deliver chemotherapy more effectively.’

The film chronicles Dr Hoxley’s reasoning behind researching diamonds and the challenges he faces.

It also highlights the personal aspects of why he has become so involved with this area of research, which combines both biology and physics.

‘This research has the potential to make life easier for people and I believe it is important for art to exhibit science and showcase its potential impact on society,’ said Dr Hoxley.

Late last year, Dr Hoxley presented his research at La Trobe’s Big FAT Ideas—a set of talks by academics challenging issues with new thought. His work has also been featured on ABC Radio National’s Science Show.

The film’s directors, Stephen Scoglio, who also works in La Trobe’s Faculty of Economics, Business and Law, and film-maker Jasmine Funnell, came up with the concept for Diamonds on the Inside after being taken by Dr Hoxley’s research.

‘I knew of Focus Forward and wanted to put something together; when I saw David speak I was really taken by the work he was doing and the personal motivation behind it.’ Mr Scoglio said  he hoped the exposure gained by the film would help Dr Hoxley’s research advance to more final stages.

Dr Hoxley said: ‘I am doing what I can to research the possibilities diamonds have to improve quality of life, and am elated that this film has been made to further explore the ideas put forth by exposing it in this arena.’

Personal aspect

Dr Hoxley:  important for art to showcase the potential impact  of science on society

Dr Hoxley: important for art to showcase the potential impact of science on society

He said his work aims to ‘take the in-patient hospital experience out of the equation for cancer patients’, by enabling them to be hooked up to a monitoring device that effectively gives them chemotherapy in response to the signals that are being generated inside them.

The ‘personal aspect’  driving  this research has been Dr Hoxley’s  own encounter with cancer.

‘Now it’s come back again, it’s a lot stronger, and I’ve decided I’m really going to have a go at this,’  he says  in the Faculty of Science, Technology and Engineering’s latest edition of the journal ‘Synergy‘.

‘I’m applying for funding and through the success of my story on iTunesU I have had many interested parties from different Australian companies and universities approach me. I am also very interested to hear from others who might like to collaborate on this research project with me,’ he says.

Hear also:

Principles of Physics on Apple iTunes

La Trobe University podcast interview on diamond surfaces