NIR light-activated nanoparticles can precisely target and treat tumors

A team of researchers at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and the University of Toronto (both in Toronto, ON, Canada) have discovered organic, biodegradable nanoparticles that use heat and near-infrared (NIR) light in a controlled manner to potentially target and ablate tumors with greater precision.

Related: Plasmonic nanoparticles heat up upon NIR light exposure for cancer treatments

The proof-of-concept findings provide a viable approach to boosting the clinical utility of photothermal therapy in treating cancer, says Dr. Gang Zheng, senior scientist at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and a professor of medical biophysics at the University of Toronto. Dr. Zheng also holds the Joey and Toby Tanenbaum/Brazilian Ball Chair in prostate cancer research.

In a study using phantom models, the researchers showed that the nanoparticles—called photo-thermal enhancing auto-regulating liposomes (PEARLs)—can solve the two bottlenecks currently preventing more effective use of photothermal therapy with patients. These are overheating of tissue that can cause collateral damage during treatment, and the inability to ablate larger tumor volumes because the light stops traveling when it is absorbed.

Zheng explains that the PEARL nanoparticle can absorb NIR light, generate heat, and ablate a tumor. Once it reaches the desired ablation temperature of 55°C, it becomes invisible—allowing the light to move deeper into more areas of tumor and repeat the treatment process, with minimal damage to surrounding tissues.

The next step, Zheng says, is to conduct preclinical studies.

Full details of the work appear in the journal Angewandte Chemie; for more information, please visit http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/anie.201605241.

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