Australian researchers are set to begin human trials of a tiny nano-cell that acts as a "Trojan horse" against cancer cells, a breakthrough they say may curb the need for debilitating chemotherapy.
The technology could eventually allow cancer sufferers to receive treatment as outpatients, rather than being hospitalised for lengthy bouts of chemotherapy, according to the researchers.
Himanshu Brahmbhatt from Sydney-based biotechnology company EnGeneIC said the research -- outlined in the journal Nature Biotechnology -- had the potential to reduce the side-effects of cancer treatment and make it cheaper.
Brahmbhatt said the technology allowed medics to target cancer cells without damaging healthy tissue, a major problem with existing chemotherapy treatments.
"Essentially you need to get the drug directly inside the cancer cell and not slug the body," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
While researchers have been working on using nano-cells against cancer for at least five years, Brahmbhatt said the latest version had proved 100 percent effective treating cancers in mice which were resistant to conventional chemotherapy.
The cells were loaded with anti-cancer medications and deployed in "waves" to combat cancers, he said.
"The first wave of Trojan horses goes in there and disables the resistance mechanisms inside the cancer cell," he said.
"Interestingly, these cancer cells are totally receptive to repeated waves of these Trojan horses.
"We can send in these nano-cells again and again and each time we can load them up with different types of armaments against cancer."
The cells will be tested on long-term cancer patients at three Melbourne hospitals later this year.
Brahmbhatt said the nano-cells used less drugs than conventional treatments, making them cheaper to administer.
The targeted treatment also means they have less side-effects than chemotherapy, he said.
"(Cancer treatment) effectively can change to literally an outpatient therapy, where the patient simply comes in once or twice a week," Brahmbhatt said.
"You can receive the treatment in a very short period of time and you can go about your normal life and not have any of these horrific toxic side effects."
(c) 2009 AFP
Explore further: World's smallest propeller could be used for microscopic medicine