Localized hyperthermia involves using heat (temperatures above 43 °C) to clinically treat solid tumours as it boosts the cytotoxic effects of chemotherapy or radiotherapy and also increases the permeability of tumour cells to drugs. It works because cancer cells are more sensitive to heat than healthy ones.

A multidisciplinary team, which includes researchers from the Universidade de Aveiro in Portugal and the Universidad Complutense de Madrid in Spain, studied in vitro laser dosage and cell irradiation exposure time. The researchers found that cell culture temperature (after irradiating cells that had taken up graphene oxide) increases preferentially with laser power rather than with exposure time. Moreover, when the laser power is increased, cell necrosis leads to an increase of cytokine release to the surrounding medium.

Controlling the type of cell damage provoked by the graphene oxides nanosheets and their hyperthermia temperature means that the researchers might be able to choose the type of cell death that occurs (for example, apoptosis or necrosis), and so tailor the possible immune response of the cells.

More information about the research can be found in the journal Nanotechnology (in press).