Colorectal Cancer Therapy Heats Up

Colorectal cancer cells killed with new electrically conductive polymer nanoparticles

(RxWiki News) Nanoparticles are super tiny materials that are being used more and more in medicine. So how tiny is tiny? In a recent study, the 2,000 nanoparticles used would fill the width of a strand of hair.

Researchers are experimenting with using nanoparticles made from polymers to treat colorectal cancer. When exposed to infrared light, these polymer nanoparticles (PN) heat up to the point that they can kill colorectal cancer cells.

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Researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center are uncovering new and better ways to use nanotechnology to treat cancer. This study was led by Nicole H. Levi-Polyachenko, PhD, assistant professor of plastic and reconstructive surgery.

These scientists have developed a polymer - a high tech material – which they’ve learned is excellent for medical uses. This polymer conducts electricity and produces a lot of heat when exposed to infrared light.

For this study, the team nested colorectal cancer cells with PNs and exposed them to infrared light for five minutes. The nanoparticles heated up and killed up to 95 percent of the cells.

"The results of this study demonstrate how new medical advancements are being developed from materials science research," Dr. Levi-Polyachenko said in a press release.

Today, metal nanoparticles are used in medical procedures. Unlike traditional metal nanoparticles that can melt or lose efficiency over time, NP can be heated and cooled a number of times without losing its heating ability.

This means cells that don’t respond to heat initially can be treated again.

Finally, the nanoparticles are made of organic materials which reduces the risk of long-term toxicity.

"There is a lot more research that needs to be done so that these new nanoparticles can be used safely in patients," Levi-Polyachenko cautioned, "but the field of electrically-conductive polymers is broad and offers many opportunities to develop safe, organic nanoparticles for generating heat locally in a tissue.”

This study was published in November in the journal Macromolecular Bioscience. The study was funded by the Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.

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Review Date: 
November 29, 2012