OCT 26, 2017 2:38 PM PDT

Hot Stuff! These Nanoparticles Kill Cancer Cells with Heat

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

Image credit: Pixabay.com

Scientists have devised numerous ways to kill cancer. However, the long-standing caveat is that most effective methods of killing cancer cells also end up harming the patients in some way. Thus, in some cases, cancer treatments become a delicate balancing act for both doctors and patients.

One common method to kill cancer is through radiation, a process that zaps cancer cells with high-energy waves like X-rays or gamma rays. This damages the cancer’s DNA so that the cells die and the tumor shrinks. However, radiation is indeed harmful and can damage healthy cells in addition to cancer cells. Furthermore, some type of radiation therapy can cause burn damage and irritation to the tissues exposed to the high-energy waves.

To more precisely target cancer cells, scientists at the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom and Dalian University of Technology in China designed nanoparticles with a self-regulating temperature control. Instead of radiation, this technique kills cancer cells with heat, also known as hyperthermia or thermal therapy.

But for hyperthermia to be effective, researchers had to design a therapy that met a narrow temperature range of between 42°C and 45°C (108°F and 113°F). Above this range, healthy cells would suffer, and below this range, cancer cells would continue to thrive.

"If we can keep cancer treatment sat at a temperature level high enough to kill the cancer, while low enough to stop harming healthy tissue," said Ravi Silva, head of the Advanced Technology Institute at the University of Surrey, and the study’s senior author, "it will prevent some of the serious side effects of vital treatment."

In order to meet this criteria, the team turned to magnetic nanoparticles that can be heated by an external magnetic field. The team then outfitted the magnetic nanoparticles with chromium (Cr), a sophisticated modification that prevented these nanoparticles from overheating. In essence, the cobalt-zinc-chromium (Co-Zn-Cr) nanoparticles followed the “Curie temperature” principle, which mean they lose their magnetic properties at above 45°C. Thus, these magnetic nanoparticles can prove lethal to tumors but safe to healthy cells.

"By making magnetic materials with the Curie temperature falling in the range of hyperthermia temperatures, the self-regulation of therapeutics can be achieved,” explained Wei Zhang, a professor at the Dalian University of Technology, and the study’s lead author. Such elegant chemistry would bypass “clumsy temperature monitoring and controlling systems."

The teams are working to further optimize and validate this technique. So far in cells, the nanoparticles show “low toxicity,” suggesting the product could be safe in organisms.

“This could potentially be a game-changer in the way we treat people who have cancer,” said Silva

Additional source: MNT

About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
You May Also Like
AUG 19, 2021
Immunology
Immune Enzyme Kills Viruses but Makes Tumors Stronger
AUG 19, 2021
Immune Enzyme Kills Viruses but Makes Tumors Stronger
Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1886 novel Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde describes a man who is a kind, respect ...
SEP 13, 2021
Cancer
Fat Loss can Predict Gastric Cancer Survival
SEP 13, 2021
Fat Loss can Predict Gastric Cancer Survival
Cancer cachexia is a metabolic disorder in cancer patients experiencing uncontrolled weight loss.  While cancer cac ...
OCT 14, 2021
Immunology
'Bio-Betters' Form the Next Wave of Cancer Therapies
OCT 14, 2021
'Bio-Betters' Form the Next Wave of Cancer Therapies
  Antibodies are blood proteins with highly specialized functions: to recognize and eliminate bacteria, viruses, an ...
OCT 10, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
DNA Can Reveal Treatments for Lung Cancer in 'Never-Smoked' Patients
OCT 10, 2021
DNA Can Reveal Treatments for Lung Cancer in 'Never-Smoked' Patients
There is a well-known causal connection between smoking and lung cancer, and most research on lung cancer has been focus ...
NOV 17, 2021
Cancer
Turkey, Tryptophan, and Cancer
NOV 17, 2021
Turkey, Tryptophan, and Cancer
As many people start to plan their Thanksgiving dinners, there will inevitably be a lot of talk about the turkey.  ...
DEC 18, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
How the HTLV-1 Virus Can Turn Immune Cells Cancerous
DEC 18, 2021
How the HTLV-1 Virus Can Turn Immune Cells Cancerous
In some cases, viruses have been linked to cancer. For example, HPV, which is now preventable with a vaccine, can lead t ...
Loading Comments...