Mar 2, 2011
Cooking cancer cells from the inside out
A team of scientists at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and University of Texas at Dallas are designing carbon nanotubes (CNTs) and related nanostructures for the targeted thermal ablation of cancer tissue. CNTs absorb external near-infrared (NIR) light and convert it to heat, which kills tumor cells that have bound to the nanoparticles. A question in this approach is whether cells that internalize targeted CNTs are more easily killed than cells in which the targeted CNTs remain on the cell surface.
The group studied the photothermal ablation of CNTs targeted to the Her2 marker present on breast tumor cells. The figure shows the direct detection of targeted CNTs within vesicles inside cells by confocal scanning Raman microscopy. The results of ablation studies suggest that when the CNTs are inside cells, a larger percentage of the cells are killed following exposure to NIR light than when the CNTs remain on the cell surface. Moreover, when a mixed culture of Her2-positive and Her2-negative cells was treated with the Her2-targeted CNTs, primarily the Her2-positive cells were killed.
Selective and non-invasive
This work suggests that it may be possible to selectively eliminate tumor cells in patients with minimal injury to normal cells and that uptake of targeted CNTs by cells might be advantageous. The long-term objective of the project is to develop a non-invasive local treatment for breast tumors to help prevent the surgery-induced escape of tumor cells into the surrounding blood and lymph tissue.
The researchers presented their work in the journal Nanotechnology.
About the author
The team includes Dr Radu Marches and Dr Ellen Vitetta at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas and Dr Rockford Draper, Dr Paul Pantano, Dr Carole Mikoryak and Dr Ru-Hung Wang at the University of Texas, Dallas. The studies were supported by the Department of Defense, the Cancer Immunobiology Center, an ARP grant from the State of Texas, and an NSF STTR grant awarded jointly to the two universities and Medical Nanotechnologies, Inc., a company that applies nanotechnology advances to medicine.