A research team led by Qun Zhao from the University of Georgia has discovered that a combination of alternating magnetic fields and iron oxide nanoparticles is capable of killing head and neck cancer cells in mice in 30 minutes without damaging healthy cells.
According to the research team, it is the first time that a mouse has been treated for this type of cancer through iron oxide nanoparticle-stimulated hyperthermia. The study findings have been reported in the journal, Theranostics. Zhao informed that this research demonstrates that a trace amount of nanoparticles is capable of destroying the cancer cells.
The research team discovered that this treatment easily killed the cancer cells that were entirely made up of a kind of tissue called epithelium. In the experiment, the team introduced a small volume of the nanoparticle solution straightaway into the tumor site of the mouse. It then placed the mouse under the influence of anesthesia in a plastic tube encircled with a wire coil, which produced magnetic fields that alter directions 100,000 times per second. The generated magnetic fields then heated the nanoparticles inside the tumor site without damaging the surrounding tissues and healthy cells.
Zhao stated that the study opens the door for further research that might study the utilization of biodegradable nanoparticles for other roles in treating cancer like acting as carriers to deliver anti-cancer medicines to the tumor site.
Under this heated condition, the cancer cells become more sensitive to medicines. Magnetic iron oxide nanoparticles may enhance the contrast in MRI scan for cancer detection. Future studies will need to test on bigger animals prior to a human clinical study. Someday, these magnetic iron oxide nanoparticles may be used as a single agent to provide therapeutics and diagnosis or theranostics.