NIH-funded researchers have developed an innovative technology that can identify and assist the destruction of cancer cells in mice, causing no harm to the surrounding healthy tissue. A treatment by making use of this technology in humans could decrease the rate of cancer reappearance or metastasis.
Nanobubbles (Credit: National Institutes of Health)
Cancer cells that can't be eliminated by surgeons can often cause tumors to return or metastasitze. Dmitri Lapotko, Ph.D., and his colleagues from Rice University (currently with Masimo Corporation, CA) outlined a new method to fight the remaining cancer cells. Their results have been published in Nature Nanotechnology in February.
Tiny gold particles have certain cancer-specific antibodies attached to their surface in this new approach. These antibodies enable the particles to be engulfed at high concentrations and cluster in cancer cells only. On exposure to a small broad laser pulse, these gold clusters heat and evaporate neighboring liquid, forming a “plasmonic nanobubble.” This nanobubble makes an “acoustic pop,” which helps to reveal the cancer cell and this then leads to an explosion that destroys it inside out.
Earlier scientists have examined gold nanoparticles for the treatment of cancer in the past, but the particles were not specific in nature. They were not able to distinguish between cancer cells and healthy cells. Lapotko and his colleagues are fighting this problem with the combined usage of antibody-coated gold particles along with the generation of nanobubbles produced with short laser pulse.
Before the surgery gold particles can be injected so that they could move to and collect in cancer cells. Once the tumor is removed by surgery, the laser (near IR) pulse can travel safely via a centimeter of tissue. This laser pulse leads to nanobubble-induced damage in the left over cancer cells with gold particles and they are the only ones which are destroyed. This exceptional approach may be able to decrease the unintentional damage caused to the patient, particularly if the tumor is positioned in a susceptible area like the brain, breast, head and neck, or prostate.
This is a creative and novel approach that combines an understanding of the basic biophysics of heat transfer with the exquisite specificity and chemistry of the targeting antibodies. It could become a powerful tool in our arsenal to fight cancer.
Rosemarie Hunziker, Director of the program for Tissue Engineering, NIBIB
When these gold particles were injected by surgeons into mice that had cancer, the preliminary outcomes were remarkable. Even though 80% of the mice in the trial operated group that did not obtain the gold particle treatment died because of tumors that reappeared in 10 days after the surgery, no mice that obtained the added nanobubble treatment grew tumors in the successive two months.
The scientists wish to start human clinical trials in the subsequent few years.