Scientists at Rice University have discovered a new method to kill individual cancer cells more efficiently in the body with an explosive cancer therapy that creates nanobubbles. The small particles identify the problem cells and destroy them with a tiny explosion. The nanobubbles are created with near-infrared laser pulses that zap colloidal gold nanoparticles inside the body. This process creates bubbles inside the cell, which burst leaving behind a small hole in the cell. At that point, antibodies and cancer killing drugs are injected into the cell’s nucleus through the hole. The bubbles make the cells easily identifiable under a microscope. The nanoparticles are harmless to other healthy cells in the body.
Rice University physicist Dimitri Lapotko, the head researcher of the project, said that single-cell identification and targeting is one of the biggest advantages of nanotechnology. According to Lapotko, the goal of the project is to be able to eliminate unhealthy cells as early as possible, prior to the victim becoming extremely ill. Before Lapotko and his team started experimenting with nanotechnology on cancer cells, they applied nanobubbles to arterial plaque. The particles blasted through the deposits blocking the arteries effectively. Lapotko said, “The bubbles worked like a jackhammer.”
In the current study, Lapotko tested the therapy on leukemia cells and head and neck cancer cells. They created nanobubbles, and then attached antibodies onto them so they would be able to locate, and destroy the cancer cells. They found the technique extremely effective. The Rice University scientist said that the treatment could be used for “theranostics,” which is a process that combines therapy and diagnosis. Because the cells are identifiable under examination in real-time, the process can be used for “post-therapeutic assessment” to determine the possibility of the disease returning.
Rice University colleague, Jason Hafner, stated that the newly discovered cancer-killing nanobubbles offer unique advantages because they operate on such a small scale, and that the technology has a grander potential for application besides disease. Hafner also said that due to the small amount of antibodies needed to turn a cell into a cancer destroyer, they could increase efficiency while decreasing dosage.
Dr. Malcolm Brenner, professor of pediatrics and medicine at BCM, said that the newly discovered cancer-killing nanobubbles is an entirely new approach for gene delivery and drug injection, and it holds great promise for selecting and attacking trouble cells that are mixed with healthy cells in the same culture. As opposed to the standard method of chemotherapy, which attacks all the cells in the body, and can lead to lowered health of the patient. In a press release, Lapotko said that what destroys the most resistant cancer cells is the intracellular synergy of the cell’s biology and the drugs introduced via the procedure. The research team will be testing the treatment on tumors created by brain, lung, and prostate cancer.
This treatment is still in its initial stages of development and is currently being funded by the National Institute of Health. It has yet to be tested on any human or animal. It is currently the subject of four peer-reviewed studies. However, scientists and doctors in the field are optimistic by the recent findings.
By Andres Loubriel