Purchasing new hardware? Read our latest product comparisons

Multi-tasking nanoparticle both seeks and destroys cancerous cells


August 27, 2014

A new multi-purpose nanoparticle has shown to possess both diagnostic and drug-delivering properties to treat cancer (Image: Shutterstock)

A new multi-purpose nanoparticle has shown to possess both diagnostic and drug-delivering properties to treat cancer (Image: Shutterstock)

Nanoparticles hold great potential as a way of both detecting cancer cells and delivering the drugs to treat them. One hurdle that has proven difficult to overcome is incorporating these properties into one multi-purpose device, as nanoparticles are generally engineered with either goal in mind. In what appears a promising development, researchers at the University of California Davis (UC Davis) Cancer Center have created a multi-tasking nanoparticle shown to be effective both in the diagnosis of a tumor and attacking its cells – a flexibility that could lead to new treatment options for cancer patients.

Nanoparticles are constructed using either inorganic or organic compounds, each with strengths of their own. Inorganic nanoparticles, such those made from gold, are effective in imaging and diagnostics. Particles made from organic compounds on the other hand, are biocompatible and provide a safe method of drug delivery, but without the great imaging potential.

The nanoparticles developed at UC Davis are built on a polymer made from a common organic compound called porphyrin and cholic acid, which is produced by the liver. The researchers then added cysteine to create a fluorescent carbon nanoparticle (CNP). This final ingredient is an amino acid serving to stop the particle prematurely releasing its payload as it moves through blood proteins and other barriers.

The team then put its new nanoparticle to the test, observing its effects across a range of tasks, both in vitro and in vivo. They found the particle was effective in delivering cancer-fighting drugs such as doxorubicin (commonly used in chemotherapy). Furthermore, applying light (known as photodynamic therapy) causes them to release reactive molecules called singlet oxygen that destroy tumor cells, while heating them with a laser (known as photothermal therapy) provided another way for the particles to destroy tumors.

One notable finding was that the release of a payload sped up as the particle was exposed to light. The researchers claim this ability to manipulate chemotherapy release rates from inside the tumor could help to minimize toxicity.

In relation to imaging and phototherapy, the nanoparticle remained in the body for extended periods and bonded with imaging agents. And because CNPs are drawn more to tumor tissue than normal tissue, it helps to improve contrast and light them up for MRI and PET scans.

"This is the first nanoparticle to perform so many different jobs," says Yuanpei Li, research faculty member from the UC Davis Cancer Center. "From delivering chemo, photodynamic and photothermal therapies to enhancing diagnostic imaging, it’s the complete package."

The team is now focusing on further pre-clinical studies, with a view to advancing to human trials if all goes to plan.

The research was published in the journal Nature Communications.

Source: UC Davis

About the Author
Nick Lavars Nick was born outside of Melbourne, Australia, with a general curiosity that has drawn him to some distant (and very cold) places. Somewhere between enduring a winter in the Canadian Rockies and trekking through Chilean Patagonia, he graduated from university and pursued a career in journalism. Having worked for publications such as The Santiago Times and The Conversation, he now writes for Gizmag from Melbourne, excited by tech and all forms of innovation, the city's bizarre weather and curried egg sandwiches. All articles by Nick Lavars

Okay, another time I'm hearing about these photodynamic & photothermal therapy methods, but is it just me, or is anyone else wondering how they're going to shine lights and shoot lasers at the cancer cells within the patient's body? Last time I tried to illuminate my internal organs, it seems that, I dunno, skin and muscle (okay, and fat too) got right in the way of that lil' ol' light beam! Does this mean that they'll have to open the patient up to expose the affected area? Or will it be an arthroscopic-type method? Either way, it seems awfully invasive - especially when risking inadvertent cancer spread with the slice-n-dice. Why not just use radio-frequency electromagnetic radiation (which goes right thru all body tissue, BTW) and directly heat up the gold nano-particles (when set to the right frequency), thus "cooking" the specific cancerous cells from the inside? (google Kanzius' method for more info...) Too simplistic?


"Last time I tried to illuminate my internal organs, it seems that, I dunno, skin and muscle (okay, and fat too) got right in the way of that lil' ol' light beam! "

You used a flashlight and a laser pointer. Completely wrong tools for the job. Different frequencies of light like near infra-red will penetrate deep into the body with minimal invasiveness and less risks than other cancer treatments. They also have terra hertz lasers that pass right through the body unless there is an interference beam applied. using this method doctors have been able to target mircon sized areas as only the zone where the two beams intersect is "active".

So there you go non-invasive (no knives) methods of applying light and heat within a body in a controlled way.


I just read a great book about a guy (Royal RIFE) in 1900s invented an XRay eye scan system for Timken bearings, to verify quality of steel for bearings while on production line. Saved them Billions, so Mr. Timken gave him a lifetime yrly stipend. He then saved his wife's life so gave him a research laboratory as best doctors he could find could NOT have saved her (as they'd told him so). Then they built an endurance sea speed boat engine to go into Timkens boat, and kept speed/endurance record for many yrs.

So he thought of a way to augment the optical resolutions of microscopes to fluoresce virii keeping them alive and view them. He then developed a system to fire radio waves at the various diseases/bacterium etc and found they had (Most if not ALL) have a Sympathetic Vibration that will devitalise disease, he stated he found the way to beat cancer, TB, Staph etc etc and then took his microscopes and radio emitters to their surgeries to test on humans.

Check him out, he did this for us by 1930s and BIG Pharma corps ran him out of USA!

Post a Comment

Login with your Gizmag account:

Related Articles
Looking for something? Search our articles