March 08, 2010
Nanoparticles Target Cancer Cells

For a long time nanotechnology was one of those technologies that lay only in our future. It is starting to show up in our present. Cornell researchers have attached antibodies to nanoparticles to attack colorectal cancer cells.

ITHACA, N.Y. - Another weapon in the arsenal against cancer: Nanoparticles that identify, target and kill specific cancer cells while leaving healthy cells alone.

Led by Carl Batt, the Liberty Hyde Bailey Professor of Food Science, the researchers synthesized nanoparticles shaped something like a dumbbell made of gold sandwiched between two pieces of iron oxide. They then attached antibodies, which target a molecule found only in colorectal cancer cells, to the particles. Once bound, the nanoparticles are engulfed by the cancer cells.

To kill the cells, the researchers use a near-infrared laser, which is a wavelength that doesn't harm normal tissue at the levels used, but the radiation is absorbed by the gold in the nanoparticles. This causes the cancer cells to heat up and die.

"This is a so-called 'smart' therapy," Batt said. "To be a smart therapy, it should be targeted, and it should have some ability to be activated only when it's there and then kills just the cancer cells."

One can imagine a variety of ways to activate toxins once those toxins have entered cancer cells. The trick is preferentially getting the toxins into cancer cells so that other cells in the body do not get poisoned by the poison payload. To just come up with antibodies that will target all the cancer in a body is a major challenge.

I am wondering whether cancer will ultimately be stopped by precisely delivered poisons or by pieces of RNA delivered into cancer cells to suppress and activate selected genes in the DNA. It is like the difference between bombs and software. Blow up the cells up or regain control over them?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2010 March 08 11:14 PM  Biotech Cancer

Lou Pagnucco said at March 10, 2010 8:51 AM:

I am curious just how accurate the targeting is, and whether the heating, or the cellular debris left over induce any harmful effects in surrounding healthy tissues.

Also, interesting is whether undesirable cells, like senescent and rogue immune cells, could be targeted and eliminated.

J Kahrs said at February 18, 2011 3:44 AM:

Instead of using a laser to heat the nanoparticle,why not attach two sythensized nanoparticles that repel eachother when magnatized to the cancer cells. Once the nanoparticles are attached to the cell, use an external magnet to magnatize the particles and rip the cancer cell apart. This eliminates the problem with heat and toxic chemical damage to normal cells and tissue. Once the external magnet is turned off, the nanoparticles have a chance to attach to remaining cancer cells. Keep repeating until all the cancer is removed.

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