NANOTECHNOLOGY IN CANCER TREATMENT
Nanotechnology cancer treatments may lead to destroying cancer tumors with minimal damage to healthy tissue and organs, as well as the detection and elimination of cancer cells before they form tumors.
Most efforts to improve cancer treatment through nanotechnology are at the research or development stage. However there are many universities and companies around the world working in this area.
The next section provides examples of the research underway, a few of the methods discussed have reached the pre-clinical or clinical trial stage.
Nanotechnology Cancer Treatments; Nanoparticle Chemotherapy
A targeted chemotherapy treatment under development uses a nanoparticle called CRLX101. The company developing this targeted chemotherapy method is called Cerulean Pharma.
Researchers at the University of Georgia are working on a method to fight prostate cancer. They are using nanoparticles to deliver a molecule called IPA-3 to the cancer cells. In laboratory mice studies the IPA-3 appears to reduce the growth of prostate cancer cells.
Researchers are testing the use of chemotherapy drugs attached to nanodiamonds to treat brain tumors. The nanodiamond/chemotherapy drug combination stays in the tumor longer than the chemotherapy drug by itself, which should increase the effectiveness.
Nanotechnology Cancer Treatments; Heat
Another technique being developed works on destroying cancer tumors by applying heat. Nanoparticles called AuroShells absorb infrared light from a laser, turning the light into heat. The company developing this technique is called Nanospectra.
Targeted heat therapy is being developed to destroy breast cancer tumors. In this method antibodies that are strongly attracted to proteins produced in one type of breast cancer cell are attached to nanotubes, causing the nanotubes to accumulate at the tumor. Infrared light from a laser is absorbed by the nanotubes and produces heat that incinerates the tumor.
Another method that targets individual cancer cells inserts gold nanoparticles into the cells, then shines a laser on the nanoparticles. The heat explodes the cancer cells.
Nanotechnology Cancer Treatments; Radiation
Researchers have developed nanoparticles containing a radioactive core with attached molecules that attach to lymphoma tumor cells. The researchers are designing this method to stop the spread of cancer from the primary tumor.
Researchers are investigating the use of bismuth nanoparticles to concentrate radiation used in radiation therapy to treat cancer tumors. Initial results indicate that the bismuth nanoparticles would increase the radiation dose to the tumor by 90 percent.
A method to make radiation therapy more effect in fighting prostate cancer is using radioactive gold nanoparticles attached to a molecule that is attracted to prostate tumor cells. Researchers believe that this method will help concentrate the radioactive nanoparticles at the cancer tumors, allowing treatment of the tumors with minimal damage to healthy tissue.
Nanotechnology Cancer Treatments; Miscellaneous
Reseachers have demonstrated a nanoparticle that kills lymphoma cancer cells. They use a nanoparticle which looks like HDL cholesterol, but with a gold nanoparicle at it's core. When this nanoparticle attaches to a lymphoma cell it blocks the cancer cell from attaching to real HLD cholesterol, starving the cancer cell.
Researchers have demonstrated a method of delivering a protein to cancer cells that destroys the cancer cells. They use a polymer nanoshell to deliver the protein into the cancer cells. When the protein accumlates in the nucleus of the cancer cell the protein causes the cancer cell to self-destruct.
A method being developed to fight skin cancer uses gold nanoparticles to which RNA molecules are attached. The nanoparticles are in an ointment that is applied to the skin. The nanoparticles penetrate the skin and the RNA attaches to a cancer related gene, stopping the gene from generating proteins that are used in the growth of skin cancer tumors.
Delivery of short interfering RNAs (siRNA) is interesting because siRNA simply stops the cancer tumor from growing and there is the potential to tailor synthetic siRNA to the version of cancer in a individual patient.
A method to increase the number of cancer fighting immune cells in cancer tumors is interesting. Nanoparticles containing drug molecules called interleukins are attached to immune cells ( T-cells). The idea is that when the T-cells reach a tumor the nanoparticles release the drug molecules, which cause the T-cells to reproduce. If enough T-cells are reproduced in the cancer tumor the cancer can be destroyed. This method has been tested on laboratory mice with very good results.
Magnetic nanoparticles that attach to cancer cells in the blood stream may allow the cancer cells to be removed before they establish new tumors. For more details read the article at this link.
Researchers at the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology and IBM researchers have demonstrated sustained drug delivery using a hydrogel. The hydrogel is injected under the skin, allowing continuous drug release for weeks, with only one injection, rather than repeated injections. They demonstrated this method by injecting the hydrogel, containing the chemotherapy drug herceptin, under the skin of laboratory mice. The study showed significant reduction in tumor size.
Using gold nanoparticles to deliver platinum to cancer tumors may reduce the side effects of platinum cancer therapy. The key is that the toxicity level of platinum depends upon the molecule it is bonded to (for the tech types the toxicity depends upon the oxidation state of the platinum). So the researchers chose a platinum containing molecule that has low toxicity to attach to the gold nanoparticles. When the platinum bearing nanoparticle reaches a cancer tumor it encounters an acidic solution which changes the platinum to it's toxic state, in which it can kill cancer cells. For more details read the article at this link.
Other researchers are taking a different approach to delivering platinum to cancer tumors. Instead of attaching platinum to nanoparticles they have used molecular building blocks to produce nanoparticles designed to deliver platinum to cancer tumors. For more details read the article at this link.
Iron oxide nanoparticles can be used to improve MRI images of cancer tumors. The nanoparticle is coated with a peptide that binds to a cancer tumor. Once the nanoparticles are attached to the tumor, the magnetic property of the iron oxide enhances the images from the Magnetic Resonance Imagining scan.
Sensors based upon nanoparticles or nanowires can detect proteins related to specific types of cancer cells in blood samples. This could allow early detection of cancer. T2 Biosystems uses superparamagnetic nanoparticles that bind to the cancer indicating protein and cluster together. These clusters provide a magnetic resonance signal indicating the presence of the cancer related protein. For another approach researchers at John Hopkins University use quantum dots and molecules that emit a fluorescent glow to detect DNA strands that are early indicators of cancer.
Researchers at UC San Diego are developing a method to collect and analyze nano sized exosomes to check for biomarkers indicating pancreatic cancer.