Versatile New Nanotechnology Could One Day be Used to Track and Kill Cancer Cells, Customize Drug Delivery

Selectively destroys cancer cells in vitro when exposed to magnetic field

Release Date: October 2, 2002 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- A new, patented nanotechnology that one day may allow cancer patients to receive treatments through an MRI procedure in a doctor's office is being developed by scientists at the University at Buffalo's Institute for Lasers, Photonics and Biophotonics and a French nanotechnology firm, Nanobiotix, Inc.

Researchers believe the remarkably versatile "nanoclinic" has the potential to be adapted for treating numerous cancers and other diseases, as well as drug-delivery and diagnostic applications, and for nonmedical applications, such as use in cosmetic and skin-care products.

The magnetic nanoclinic is a thin silica bubble, the surface of which can be customized using a peptide carrier group to selectively target cancer cells. Inside the bubble are ferromagnetic nanoparticles that exhibit a strong inclination to align in the direction of a magnetic field. The researchers foresee patients receiving the nanoclinics -- which would be taken up by cancer cells but not normal cells and tissue -- intravenously or by injection at the tumor site. They then would undergo an MRI procedure that would "switch on" the destructive capability of the particles, causing the membranes of cancer cells to rupture.

In a scientific paper in press with Biomedical Microdevices, the UB and Nanobiotix scientists describe how magnetic nanoclinics, less than 70 nanometers in diameter, can selectively destroy human breast and ovarian cancer cells in vitro when a magnetic field is applied. Studies are underway in animals aimed at demonstrating the selective uptake of nanoclinics by tumor cells.

"As far as we know, this is the first demonstration of the possibility that magnetic resonance imaging could one day be used in the noninvasive treatment, not just detection, of certain cancers," said co-author Paras Prasad, Ph.D., executive director of the UB Institute for Lasers, Photonics and Biophotonics and SUNY Distinguished Professor in the UB Department of Chemistry.

His co-authors are Earl J. Bergey, Ph.D., UB research associate professor of chemistry

and deputy director of the institute, and Laurent Levy, Ph.D., president of Nanobiotix, who previously was a post-doctoral researcher at the institute.

Earlier results with the nanoclinics were described in a paper published in the September issue of Chemistry of Materials published by the American Chemical Society.

"The nanoclinic technology allows for the controlled generation of physical or chemical reactions in targeted cells triggered by the application of an external energy source, whether it be magnetic field, electric field, X-ray, or light," said Levy.

Levy said he expects to strengthen the research partnership between Nanobiotix and the institute and that his company may open an office in Western New York.

"The institute offers a double benefit," he explained, "because it has expertise in both nanotechnology and biotechnology. It is this multidisciplinary strength that has played, and will continue to play, a key role in the development of this nanoclinic and in other nanobiotech research that UB and Nanobiotix are pursuing together."

The UB-Nanobiotix team also is actively discussing collaborations with major pharmaceutical companies.

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