Cancer is no longer considered as a condition that spells sure death. However, most of those who have conquered the disease had done so when the cancer was diagnosed in its initial stages. Most localized cancers are surgically removed. Some cancer cells may, however, escape the surgery and remain in the body. These have the potential to form new cancer either at the same site or another site in the body, referred to as metastasis. Chemotherapy
or radiation therapy
administered after the surgery to sweep off any residual cancer cells are associated with unpleasant side effects since they do not selectively target cancer cells and may harm normal cells as well.
‘Pulsed laser can selectively target cancer cells containing clusters of gold particles, thereby destroying them.’
Newer technology is being investigated to selectively target and kill
the remaining cancer cells following surgery, referred to as a microscopic residual disease, with precision
. Researchers Dmitri Lapotko and
team used gold particles tagged with antibodies to guide the gold particles
into the cancer cells. Once inside the cell, they were subjected to a short
laser pulse, which caused them to vaporize the water in the cell and produce a
tiny bubble called a plasmonic nanobubble
The bubble then burst and destroyed the cancer cell from inside.
The researchers tried out the new
technology in mice with cancerous tumors. Gold particles coated with antibodies
were injected into the mice and the cancer was surgically removed. Short laser
pulse was administered following the removal, which caused the residual cancer
cells to produce a plasmonic nanobubble. The bubble burst inside the cancer
cell, thereby destroying it.
Mice who received the treatment
did not show any recurrence of cancer for a period of two months. On the other
hand, 80% of mice who did not receive the treatment died within 10 days of the
The antibodies on the gold
particles ensured that the gold particles entered only cancer cells. The low-energy
short laser pulses ensured that surrounding tissues were not damaged. This
approach can be very useful in regions like the brain where the loss of every
cell could have grave consequences. This new technique would undoubtedly be a
boon to cancer patients. However, more studies are necessary before it can be
used in medical practice.
- Nanobubbles Generated by Pulsed Laser Identify & Destroy Cancer Cells - (https://www.nibib.nih.gov/news-events/newsroom/nanobubbles-generated-pulsed-laser-identify-destroy-cancer-cells)
EY, Kim Y, Belatsarkouski I, Gillenwater AM, O'Neill BE, Lapotko DO. Intraoperative diagnostics and elimination of residual microtumours with plasmonic nanobubbles. Nature Nanotechnology 11, 525-532 (2016) doi:10.1038/nnano.2015.343.
- Targeted Cancer Therapies - (http://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/types/targeted-therapies/targeted-therapies-fact-sheet)