Glowing nanotech guides cancer surgery, kills remaining cancer cells
Oregon State University researchers have developed a new way to selectively insert compounds into cancer cells, a system that will help surgeons identify malignant tissues and then, in combination with phototherapy, kill any remaining cancer cells after a tumor is removed.
The method should allow more accurate surgical removal of solid tumors at the same time it eradicates any remaining cancer cells. In laboratory tests, it completely prevented cancer recurrence after phototherapy.
“With this approach, cancerous cells and tumors will literally glow and fluoresce when exposed to near-infrared light, giving the surgeon a precise guide about what to remove,” Taratula said. “That same light will activate compounds in the cancer cells that will kill any malignant cells that remain. It’s an exciting new approach to help surgery succeed.”
The researchers used a compound called naphthalocyanine, which has some unusual properties when exposed to near-infrared light: It can make a cell glow as a guide to surgeons; heat the cell to kill it; and produce reactive oxygen species (chemicals such as hydrogen peroxide) that can also kill a cell if the other methods don’t work. By adjusting the intensity of the light, the action of the compound can be controlled and optimized to kill just the tumor and cancer cells. This research was done with ovarian cancer cells.
Normally, naphthalocyanine isn’t water soluble and also tends to clump up, or aggregate, inside the body, in the process losing its ability to makes cells glow and generate reactive oxygen species. This also makes it difficult or impossible to find its way through the circulatory system and take up residence only in cancer cells.