Scientists have developed what they call a 'cocktail' of nano-sized particles that is capable of identifying and killing cancerous tumors, in a breakthrough study.
According to the team from California and Massachusetts, the "cocktail" works in concert within the bloodstream to locate, adhere to and destroy cancerous tumours.
"This study represents the first example of the benefits of employing a cooperative nanosystem to fight cancer," said Michael Sailor, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of California, San Diego and the primary author of a paper.
The researchers have developed a system containing two different nanomaterials the size of only a few nanometers, or a thousand times smaller than the diameter of a human hair, that can be injected into the bloodstream.
One nanomaterial was designed to find and adhere to tumours in mice, while the second nanomaterial was fabricated to kill those tumours.
"For example, a nanoparticle that is engineered to circulate through a cancer patient's body for a long period of time is more likely to encounter a tumour," said Sangeeta Bhatia, a physician, bioengineer and a professor of Health Sciences and Technology at the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT and a co-author of the study.
"However, that nanoparticle may not be able to stick to tumour cells once it finds them. Likewise, a particle that is engineered to adhere tightly to tumours may not be able to circulate in the body long enough to encounter one in the first place," she added.
When a single drug does not work in a patient, a doctor will commonly administer a cocktail containing several drug molecules. That strategy can be very effective in the treatment of cancer, where the rationale is to attack the disease on as many fronts as possible.
The study is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.