Using magnetic nanoparticles to combat cancer

July 16, 2008
Using magnetic nanoparticles to combat cancer
Magnetic Nanoparticles Capture Ovarian Cancer Cells

Scientists at Georgia Tech have developed a potential new treatment against cancer that attaches magnetic nanoparticles to cancer cells, allowing them to be captured and carried out of the body. The treatment, which has been tested in the laboratory and will now be looked at in survival studies, is detailed online in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

"We've been able to use magnetic nanoparticles to capture free-floating cancer cells and then take them out of the body," said John McDonald, chair of the School of Biology at Georgia Tech and chief research scientist at the Ovarian Cancer Institute. "This technology may be of special importance in the treatment of ovarian cancer where the malignancy is typically spread by free-floating cancer cells released from the primary tumor into the abdominal cavity."

The idea came to the research team from the work of Ken Scarberry, a Ph.D. student in Tech's School of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Scarberry originally conceived of the idea as a means of extracting viruses and virally infected cells when his advisor, Chemistry professor John Zhang, had another idea. He asked if the technology could be applied to cancer. Scarberry suggested it might be an effective means of preventing cancer cells from spreading.

They began by testing the therapy on mice. After giving the cancer cells in the mice a fluorescent green tag and staining the magnetic nanoparticles red, they were able to apply a magnet and move the green cancer cells to the abdominal region.

"If the therapy is able to pass further tests that show it can prevent the cancer from spreading from the original tumor," Scarberry said, "it could be an important tool in cancer treatment."

This technology holds more promise than solely using antibodies to fight cancer because there seems to be less potential for the body to develop an immune response due to the unique peptide-targeting strategy, and the composition of the magnetic nanoparticles.

"If you modify the nanoparticle and target it directly to the tumor cells using a small peptide, you are less likely to generate an undesirable immune response and more accurately target the cells of interest," said Research Scientist Erin Dickerson.

In addition to testing magnetic nanoparticles, the research team is collaborating with other groups at Georgia Tech to determine how peptide-directed gold nanoparticles and nanohydrogels might also be used in fighting cancer.

Source: Georgia Institute of Technology

Explore further: Nanocarriers may carry new hope for brain cancer therapy

Related Stories

Nanocarriers may carry new hope for brain cancer therapy

November 19, 2015

Glioblastoma multiforme, a cancer of the brain also known as "octopus tumors" because of the manner in which the cancer cells extend their tendrils into surrounding tissue, is virtually inoperable, resistant to therapies, ...

Gadolinium-based particles show and treat tumours

October 27, 2015

Neutron-capture therapy (NCT) provides an effective localised treatment for irradiating cancer tumours. However to ensure only cancerous cells are destroyed it is helpful to see where NCT drugs have accumulated in order to ...

Recommended for you

Physicists develop new technique to fathom 'smart' materials

November 26, 2015

Physicists from the FOM Foundation and Leiden University have found a way to better understand the properties of manmade 'smart' materials. Their method reveals how stacked layers in such a material work together to bring ...

Mathematicians identify limits to heat flow at the nanoscale

November 24, 2015

How much heat can two bodies exchange without touching? For over a century, scientists have been able to answer this question for virtually any pair of objects in the macroscopic world, from the rate at which a campfire can ...

New sensor sends electronic signal when estrogen is detected

November 24, 2015

Estrogen is a tiny molecule, but it can have big effects on humans and other animals. Estrogen is one of the main hormones that regulates the female reproductive system - it can be monitored to track human fertility and is ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Jul 16, 2008
Try getting an electron-volt reading on the cancer cell. (It should be more negative than surrounding cells if my reasoning is correct.) You could then be able to detect and destroy, or neutralize them electronically.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.