Nanotechnology Advancement for Minimally Invasive Treatment of Liver Cancer

Kattesh Katti, Ph.D., Curators' Professor of Radiology and Physics at the MU School of Medicine and lead author of the study. Credit: Justin Kelley, MU Health

The American Cancer Society reports that every year, over 700,000 new liver cancer cases are diagnosed globally.

Currently, the only way to cure liver cancer is to surgically remove the cancerous part from the liver or to perform organ transplantation. However, an international study carried out by researchers from the University of Missouri School of Medicine has demonstrated that a new minimally invasive procedure targets and destroys precancerous tumor cells in the mice livers and invitro human cells.

The limitations when treating most forms of cancer involve collateral damage to healthy cells near tumor sites. For more than a decade we have studied the use of nanotechnology to test whether targeted treatments would reduce or eliminate damage to nearby healthy cells. Of particular interest has been the use of green nanotechnology approaches pioneered here at MU that use natural chemical compounds from plants.

Kattesh Katti, PhD, lead author of the study and Curators’ Professor of Radiology and Physics at the MU School of Medicine

The research, which was carried out in Egypt and the United States, involved intravenously introducing gold nanoparticles enclosed within a protective stabilizer, known as gum Arabic, into the livers of mice and subsequently heating the nanoparticles using a laser through a process called photothermal therapy.

Gum Arabic is a natural gum made of the hardened sap from acacia trees. It is FDA-approved for human consumption and is primarily used in the food industry as an additive. It also promotes adhesion of gold nanoparticles engineered to attract to precancerous and malignant cells - which are much more susceptible to lower levels of heat than healthy cells. Once the nanoparticles travel and adhere to cancerous cells, they are heated to a temperature that destroys them but leaves healthy tissue unaffected.

Kattesh Katti, PhD, lead author of the study and Curators’ Professor of Radiology and Physics at the MU School of Medicine

Katti serves as director of the MU Institute of Green Nanotechnology and is the Margaret Proctor Mulligan Distinguished Professor of Medical Research at the MU School of Medicine.

The research was performed by Katti’s team on 224 mice, in total. Precancerous cells were identified in the livers of half the mice, whereas the remaining had normal liver tissue. Other than the control group, the mice were administered an intravenous injection of either gum Arabic or gum Arabic-encapsulated gold nanoparticles with or without laser therapy.

The administration of gum Arabic, gold nanoparticles and photothermal therapy caused no change to healthy tissue, which confirmed the safe use of these treatments. However, the use of gum Arabic-encapsulated nanoparticles combined with photothermal therapy resulted in the targeted eradication of the precancerous cells and their genetic code in both our mice model and the human invitro cell model we developed for this study.

Kattesh Katti, PhD, lead author of the study and Curators’ Professor of Radiology and Physics at the MU School of Medicine

Katti stated that the next step for furthering the method into a cancer treatment for humans would be a clinical trial.

The components for this new therapy are inexpensive, do not have any issues associated with a shelf-life and are easy to produce. Most importantly, it does not involve the use of harsh chemotherapy drugs or radiation. It is a ‘green’ approach that also may lead to successful treatment of other forms of cancer.

Kattesh Katti, PhD, lead author of the study and Curators’ Professor of Radiology and Physics at the MU School of Medicine

The study titled “Photothermal Therapy Mediated by Gum Arabic-conjugated Gold Nanoparticles Suppresses Liver Preneoplastic Lesions in Mice,” was recently reported in the Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology B: Biology. Co-authors of the research team include Menka Khoobchandani, PhD; Sagar Gupta, PhD; Kavita Katti, PhD; and Ravi Shukla, PhD. The MU School of Medicine, the MU Interdisciplinary Intercampus Research Program and the National Research Centre in Cairo, Egypt, supported the research.

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