Glioma is one of the hardest cancers to treat due to its quick aggressive growth and its ability to wedge itself in to the most inaccessible crevices of the brain or spine. The usual prognosis is grim, with patients normally succumbing within 6-12 months.
Researchers from Rice University’s Department of Bioengineering and Texas Children’s Cancer Center just upped the ante in the battle against this big nasty of all cancers. Released in November’s issue of the Journal of Neuro-Oncology the method described uses gold layered balls of silica called “nanoshells.”
Using mice with advanced glioma, nanoshells were injected into the blood where white blood cells recognize and absorb the nanoshells. Within six hours the white blood cells distribute them throughout the body with the highest concentrations in the spleen, liver, and tumor cells, remaining there for up to 48 hours. Using lasers light tuned to certain wavelength, the light is directed at the tumors where the special silica blend within the nanoshells begin absorbing it. They then release the energy as intense heat and kill only the surrounding tumor tissue. All of the mice receiving the treatment lived for 90 days+ (almost a lifetime for a mouse) where those getting only laser light died after 24 days.
In humans, this amazing approach to cancer treatment would allow doctors to specifically target tumor cells with little to no surrounding tissue damage. With the correct antibodies attached to the nanoshell, one might be able to target many specific cell types for possible treatment. This is leagues ahead of the current radiation “spray and pray” method. One of the largest technological hurdles for this method will be delivery of the laser light to the cells, but with fiber optic technology I don’t see it being a hard one to overcome. The researchers claim that there next tests will be for prostate and pancreatic cancers.
Nanoshell technology was invented at Rice University and Houston’s Nanospectra Biosciences holds the current license for its medical use. Called AuroLase® Therapy, clinical trials began for head and neck cancer treatments in 2008.