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Scientists Develop Nanoparticles That Can Treat Ocular Cancer

Update Date: Feb 22, 2016 01:13 PM EST

Using a nanoparticle to harness the protective mechanism of tumor cells, researchers from the University of Michigan have found how to short-circuit tumor cell metabolism in ocular cancer, so that they can kill tumor cells.

"Our work uses a semiconducting nanoparticle with an attached platinum electrode to drive the synthesis of an anti-cancer compound when illuminated by light," Howard Petty, who participated in the research, said in a press release. "The nanoparticle mimics the behavior of NADPH oxidase, an enzyme used by immune cells to kill tumor cells and infectious agents. Since tumor cells typically use NADPH to protect themselves from toxins, the more NADPH they synthesize for protection, the faster they die."

Over four years, the team used a mouse model of cancer, analysing breast cancer metastasis in the eye's interior chamber. The nanoparticle helped to kill tumor cells in both eyes and also extended the survival of experimental mice with 4T1 tumors. This is one cancer cell line that is extremely tough to kill.

"Previous monotherapies have not extended the lifetimes of mice bearing this type of tumor," Petty said. "Our work has shown that we can extend survival of the mice."

The nanotechnology technique can be used for many other disciplines. Further research will show the efficacy for multiple proposed applications.

"This treatment offers many advantages," Petty concluded. "The nanoparticle produces about 20 million toxins per hour in each cell. Also, the nanoparticle is activated by light, so it can be turned on and off simply by exposing it to the correct color of visible light."

The study was published in the Feb. 19 issue of Nanotechnology.

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