Technology review, July 22, 2008
Nanoparticles pluck cancer cells from the bellies of mice.
Magnetic nanoparticles coated with a specialized targeting molecule were able to latch on to cancer cells in mice and drag them out of the body. The results are described in a study published online this month in the Journal of the American Chemical Society. The study's authors, researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology, hope that the new technique will one day provide a way to test for--and potentially even treat--metastatic ovarian cancer.
"It's a fairly novel approach, to use magnetic particles in vivo to try to sequester cancer cells," says Michael King, an associate professor of biomedical engineering at Cornell University, who was not involved in the study.
With ovarian cancer, metastasis occurs when cells slough off the primary tumor and float free in the abdominal cavity. If researchers could use the magnetic nanoparticles to trap drifting cancer cells and pull them out of the abdominal fluid, they could predict and perhaps prevent metastasis. Although the nanoparticles were tested inside the bodies of mice, the authors envision an external device that would remove a patient's abdominal fluid, magnetically filter out the cancer cells, and then return the fluid to the body. After surgery to remove the primary tumor, a patient would undergo the treatment to remove any straggling cancer cells. The researchers are currently developing such a filter and testing it on abdominal fluid from human cancer patients.
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