Researchers at University College London have shown that tiny magnetic nanoparticles could enhance cancer treatment. The particles can deliver chemotherapy drugs to cancer cells and also produce a mild heating effect when stimulated with an external alternating magnetic field. Combining particle-mediated heat treatment and chemotherapy resulted in synergistic effects in killing cancer cells, suggesting that the technology could be a useful tool in the fight against cancer.
Nanoparticles offer enormous potential in creating targeted and highly effective anti-cancer treatments. This latest technology combines two different anti-cancer mechanisms – chemotherapy and heat treatment – for a two-pronged attack.
The iron oxide nanoparticles are magnetic, and can be stimulated using an alternating magnetic field to produce a mild heating effect. This mild hyperthermia heats nearby cells to approximately 42 degrees Celsius. Healthy cells can withstand such heat, but cancer cells die when exposed to it. The magnetic field can be applied outside the body and can be directed at the site of the tumor, for a targeted and minimally invasive intervention.
The particles can also carry chemotherapy drugs to a tumor in the body, helping to limit exposure to healthy tissues elsewhere. A polymer coating prevents the particles from releasing their drug payload until they are internalized in lysosomes within cancer cells. The acidity of the lysosomes causes the polymer to release the drug, killing the cancer cells. The coating also releases the drug in response to heat.
So far, the researchers have tested the particles with different types of cancer cells grown in the lab. They found that applying heat and delivering chemotherapy simultaneously, using a common chemotherapy drug, doxorubicin, provided synergistic efficacy.
“Our study shows the enormous potential of combining chemotherapy with heat treatment delivered via magnetic nanoparticles,” in the announcement said Nguyen T. K. Thanh, a researcher involved in the study. “While this combination of therapy is already approved for the treatment of fast-growing glioblastomas, our results suggest it has potential to be used more widely as a broad anti-cancer therapy. This therapy also has potential to reduce the side effects of chemotherapy, by ensuring it is more highly targeted on cancer cells rather than healthy tissue. This needs to be explored in further pre-clinical tests.”
Study in Journal of Materials Chemistry B: In vitro exploration of the synergistic effect of alternating magnetic field mediated thermo–chemotherapy with doxorubicin loaded dual pH- and thermo-responsive magnetic nanocomposite carriers