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Lauren Admire | 9 Nov 2009 17:00

Nanotechnology for Cancer Treatments

Most cancer therapies begin or end with dosages of chemotherapy - strong chemicals that target and destroy cancer cells - as well as healthy cells. Chemotherapy has toxic side effects; with results ranging from loss of hair, heightened susceptibility to other sicknesses, and other side effects.

Researchers have been looking into technologies that could avoid these toxic side effects, and they may have just stumbled upon the golden ticket. The golden nanocage ticket, that is.

A team led by Younan Xia of Washington University have developed "nanocages," cages made of gold that hold a specific amount of drugs which only release on demand. Each cage is cube-shaped, with tiny holes at each corner. The cage is filled with chemotherapy drugs or bactericides, which are kept inside by polymer strands attached to the outside of the cage which cover the holes.

The polymer strands can be open or closed whenever heat is applied. To target these nanocages within a body, a near-infrared light is used, which can penetrate through several layers of body tissue to activate the polymer's phase change. The polymer strands then open and release the drugs near the cancerous tissues, providing optimal beneficial effects of the drugs and minimizing its side effects. Researchers claim that they can engineer the cages to stick only to tumors, which would be helpful in eliminating the more toxic effects of chemotherapy which courses throughout the body and attacks healthy and damaged cells at will.

These "smart cages" have been tested in two scenarios. In one scenario, the cages were loaded with a common chemotherapy drug and released near breast cancer cells growing on a plastic plate. The breast cancer cells were destroyed completely. Additionally, the nanocages have been loaded with enzymes which break open cell walls of bactera; the study was used to kill bacteriums which normally reside in our mouths and throats.

Source: Discover

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