A smart organic biodegradable nanoparticle has been developed by Dr. Gang Zheng and a team of biomedical researchers. The nanoparticle uses heat and light in a controlled manner to potentially target and ablate tumors with greater precision.
The proof-of-concept findings are published in the leading chemistry journal Angewandte Chemie
. This provides a viable approach to boosting the clinical utility of photo-thermal therapy in treating cancer, says Dr. Zheng, Senior Scientist at Princess Margaret and Professor of Medical Biophysics at the University of Toronto.
‘The smart nanoparticle called PEARLs is a promising new way to heat and ablate larger volumes of a tumor with minimal damage to the surrounding tissues.’
In the lab, using phantom models, the "smart" nanoparticle the team has dubbed PEARLs - photo-thermal enhancing auto-regulating liposomes - showed how it could solve the two bottlenecks currently preventing the more effective use of photo-thermal 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.
Dr. Zheng, a chemist, explains: "Our smart nanoparticle is super cool. It can absorb light, generate heat and ablate the tumor. It's a thermal sensor, and once it reaches the desired ablation temperature of 55C, it becomes invisible allowing the light to move deeper into more areas of tumor and repeat the treatment process.
"The result is a promising new way to heat and ablate larger volumes of the tumor with minimal damage to surrounding tissues in a controlled and precise way. The next step is to conduct pre-clinical studies to test the concept further."
For the past 10 years at Princess Margaret, Dr. Zheng's research has focused on advancing nanoparticle technology by harnessing light, heat and sound to advance tumor imaging and targeted treatment.