An organic nanoparticle that is completely non-toxic, biodegradable and nimble in the way it uses light and heat to treat cancer and deliver drugs, has been created by the a team of scientists from Princess Margaret Hospital.
The findings are significant because unlike other nanoparticles, the new nanoparticle has a unique and versatile structure that could potentially change the way tumors are treated, said principal investigator Gang Zheng.
"In the lab, we combined two naturally occurring molecules (chlorophyll and lipid) to create a unique nanoparticle that shows promise for numerous diverse light-based (biophotonic) applications. The structure of the nanoparticle, which is like a miniature and colorful water balloon, means it can also be filled with drugs to treat the tumor it is targeting," said Zheng.
"Photothermal therapy uses light and heat to destroy tumors. With the nanoparticle's ability to absorb so much light and accumulate in tumors, a laser can rapidly heat the tumor to a temperature of 60 degrees and destroy it.
The nanoparticle can also be used for photoacoustic imaging, which combines light and sound to produce a very high-resolution image that can be used to find and target tumors," said first author Jonathan Lovell.
He added that once the nanoparticle hits its tumor target, it becomes fluorescent to signal 'mission accomplished'.
"There are many nanoparticles out there, but this one is the complete package, a kind of one-stop shopping for various types of cancer imaging and treatment options that can now be mixed and matched in ways previously unimaginable. The unprecedented safety of this nanoparticle in the body is the icing on the cake. We are excited by the possibilities for its use in the clinic," said Zheng.
The study has been published online in Nature Materials.