Researchers are a step closer to creating a medical 'smart bomb' that would seek out and wipe the root of cancer cells.

The researchers said current treatments kill the bulk of the cancer cell, but are largely ineffective against the root of the cancer, the cancer stem cells.

Their aim is to develop a 'smart bomb' that can penetrate the cell and release the anti-cancer drugs within the cells, rather than from the outside, and kill the whole tumour, root and all.

Under the two part project being undertaken by the Deakin and Indian scientists, the researchers have created the world's first cancer stem cell-targeting chemical missile, or aptamer, part of the 'smart bomb'.

The aptamer is a chemical antibody, designed to penetrate a tumour and specifically target cancer stem cells. This missile will carry the 'bomb'; the second part of the drug delivery system.

The aim now is to combine the aptamer with the 'bomb' that can carry anti-cancer drugs or diagnostic imaging agents directly to the cancer stem cells, creating the ultimate medical smart bomb, says Wei Duan, the Director of Deakin Medical School's Nanomedicine Program.

According to the researchers, the 'bomb' will be a very smart lipid, or fat particle that will remain stable in the body, i.e. it will not break down. This particle will carry the anti-cancer drug as well as anti-cancer genes.

When combined, the 'smart bomb' will be injected into the body and find the cancer cell. Once inside the cell, it will very quickly release its contents and kill the whole cancer cell.

Duan said the medical smart bomb opened up exciting possibilities for detection and treatment of cancer.

The cancer stem cell-targeting missile and the smart bomb could revolutionise the way cancer is diagnosed, he said.

The project is a collaboration between Deakin University's School of Medicine and Institute for Technology Research and Innovation and the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, Institute of Life Science along with Barwon Health's Andrew Love Cancer Centre and ChemGenex Pharmaceuticals. It has received $700,000 funding from the Federal Government's Australia-India Strategic Research Fund, with reciprocal support from the Indian Government.