Nanotube therapy takes aim at breast cancer stem cells

Feb 09, 2012

Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center researchers have again proven that injecting multiwalled carbon nanotubes (MWCNTs) into tumors and heating them with a quick, 30-second laser treatment can kill them.

The results of the first effort involving was published in 2009, but now they've taken the science and directed it at breast cancer tumors, specifically the tumor initiating cancer stem cells. These stem cells are hard to kill because they don't divide very often and many anti-cancer strategies are directed at killing the cells that divide frequently.

The Wake Forest Baptist are reported online ahead of April print publication in the journal Biomaterials. The research is a result of a collaborative effort between Wake Forest School of Medicine, the Wake Forest University Center for and Molecular Materials, and Rice University. Lead investigator and professor of biochemistry Suzy V. Torti, Ph.D., of Wake Forest Baptist, said the breast cancer stem cells tend to be resistant to drugs and , so targeting these particular cells is of great interest in the scientific community.

"They are tough. These are cells that don't divide very often. They just sort of sit there, but when they receive some sort of trigger – and that's not really well understood – it's believed they can migrate to other sites and start a metastasis somewhere else," Torti explained. "Heat-based cancer treatments represent a promising approach for the clinical management of cancers, including breast cancer."

Using a mouse model, the researchers injected tumors containing breast cancer stem cells with nanotubes, which are very small tubes made of carbon. By themselves, said Torti, nanotubes don't have any anti-tumor properties, but if they are exposed to laser-generated, near-infrared radiation they start to vibrate and produce heat. This combination can produce a local region in the tumor that is very hot, she said. Using this method, the group was able to stop the growth of tumors that were largely composed of stem cells. This suggests that nanotube-mediated thermal treatment can eliminate both the differentiated cells that constitute the bulk of the tumor and the cancer stem cells that drive tumor growth and recurrence.

"To truly cure a cancer, you have to get rid of the entire tumor, including the small population of cancer that could give rise to metastasis," Torti said. "There's more research to be done. We're looking at five to 10 years of more study and development. But what this study shows is that all that effort may be worth it – it gives us a direction to go for a cure."

Explore further: Innovative strategy to facilitate organ repair

Provided by Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center

5 /5 (1 vote)

Related Stories

Researchers effectively treat tumors with use of nanotubes

Aug 03, 2009

By injecting man-made, microscopic tubes into tumors and heating them with a quick, 30-second zap of a laser, scientists have discovered a way to effectively kill kidney tumors in nearly 80 percent of mice. Researchers say ...

Herceptin targets breast cancer stem cells

Jul 09, 2008

A gene that is overexpressed in 20 percent of breast cancers increases the number of cancer stem cells, the cells that fuel a tumor's growth and spread, according to a new study from the University of Michigan Comprehensive ...

Getting to the roots of breast cancer

Apr 29, 2008

The lesson learned in eradicating dandelions from your yard could apply in treating breast cancer as well, said researchers from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston in a report that appears online today in the Journal of ...

Recommended for you

Innovative strategy to facilitate organ repair

Apr 18, 2014

A significant breakthrough could revolutionize surgical practice and regenerative medicine. A team led by Ludwik Leibler from the Laboratoire Matière Molle et Chimie (CNRS/ESPCI Paris Tech) and Didier Letourneur ...

Physicists create new nanoparticle for cancer therapy

Apr 16, 2014

A University of Texas at Arlington physicist working to create a luminescent nanoparticle to use in security-related radiation detection may have instead happened upon an advance in photodynamic cancer therapy.

User comments : 0

More news stories

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...