Scientists are exploring all kinds of avenues when it comes to tackling cancer, and one interesting possibility involves using magnetic nanoparticles to heat and destroy its cells. Researchers in India have taken an impressive step forward with this technology, working it into a magnetic bandage that proved capable of killing skin cancer cells in experiments on mice.
Over the past couple of years we've seen some exciting advances in tackling cancer with magnetic nanoparticles in the form of an emerging technique known as magnetic hyperthermia. This involves magnetic nanoparticles being delivered to the tumor site and then activated with an alternating magnetic field, which causes them to heat up and take out surrounding cancer cells.
These particles could be injected directly into the tumor, or make their own way there in clusters. Now, it seems they could also simply be applied to the skin via a non-invasive bandage, where they would go to work on adjacent skin cancer cells.
The technology was developed by scientists at the Indian Institute of Science, with the nanoparticles created through a technique called electrospinning, where materials are drawn through an electric field to create microscopic fibers. The resulting nanoparticles are a mix of an iron oxide and a biodegradable polymer, and were pasted onto a surgical tape which could then be heated up via a magnetic field.
Putting this to the test on human cancer cell lines in vitro, the heated bandage served to successfully kill off them off. The technology was then applied to mice with artificially induced skin cancer, where it also killed off the cancer cells, while leaving healthy tissue unharmed with no evidence of burns or inflammation.
“The elevated temperature at the treatment site enables heat to penetrate the tumor cells, rupturing the compact random vasculatures [network of blood vessels] of the tumors,” explains Shilpee Jain, senior author of the paper. “[In contrast], the normal healthy cells, owing to their organized open vasculatures, dissipate the heat to maintain normal temperatures, and so remain unharmed.”
While these early results are promising the team notes it is very early days for the technology, with a lot of work to do before it enters clinical use. Initially, that will involve more studies on progressively larger animals.
“Further studies are required to test the efficacy of this novel treatment method on a larger scale in rabbits, dogs, and monkeys before employing it for pre-clinical and clinical applications,” cautions Jain.