Researchers from the Niels Bohr Institute and the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Copenhagen (both Denmark) have developed a novel method for local killing of cancer cells, which uses nanoparticles that are injected directly into the tumor and laser light. Details appeared recently in Scientific Reports.
Current methods of cancer treatment such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy are known to have detrimental side effects on patients as they affect both tumor and healthy cells.
This project, termed laser-activated nanoparticles for tumor elimination (LANTERN), was designed to affect local cancer cells without harming surrounding healthy tissue. Leading the study, Lene Oddershede (Niels Bohr Institute) and Andreas Kjær (Panum Institute and Rigoshospitalet, Denmark) experimented with biological membranes, before testing the method in mice with human tumor xenografts.
“The treatment involves injecting tiny nanoparticles directly into the cancer. Then you heat up the nanoparticles from outside using lasers. It is a strong interaction between the nanoparticles and the laser light, which causes the particles to heat up. What then happens is that the heated particles damage or kill the cancer cells,” explained Oddershede.
Silica-gold nanoshells outperformed solid gold nanopaticles, in both the in vitro and in vivo experiments. Nanoparticles that were 150 nm in size were also noted to provide the best results. Near-infrared light was used to illuminate the nanoparticles as it was best at penetrating tissue, causing minimal damage. PET scans confirmed that cancer cells had been destroyed even after 1 h of treatment and continued up to 2 days post treatment.
Oddershede continued: “Now we have proven that the method works. In the longer term, we would like the method to work by injecting the nanoparticles into the bloodstream, where they end up in the tumors that may have metastasized.”