Researchers say that carbon nanotubes may be effective in targeting cancerous tumors and may one day be an integral aspect of cancer treatment
An article released in the Journal of Biomedical Optics discusses a new approach to the detection, tracking and killing of cancer cells. “In vivo Raman flow cytometry for real-time detection of carbon nanotube kinetics in lymph, blood, and tissues,” was co-authored by Dr. Alex Biris and Dr. Vladimir P. Zharov of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Dr. Biris says that, “by using Raman spectroscopy, we showed that it is possible not only to monitor and detect nanomaterials moving through the circulation, but also to detect single cancer cells tagged with carbon nanotubes.” This new approach allows scientists to track cancer cells in the body and offers a different and possible more effective way to treat cancer from previous methods.
Dr. Alex Biris of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR) is the chief scientist at the Nanotechnology Center and an assistant professor of applied science in University’s Donaghey College of Engineering and Information Technology. Dr. Vladimir Zharov is a professor and director of the the Phillips Classic Laser and Nanomedicine Laboratories in the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences at the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute.
Research conducted by Biris, Zharov and colleague Dr. Ekaterina Galanzha of UAMS consisted of injecting a single human cancer cell into the tail vein of a rat. The cancer cell contained a carbon nanotube material that allows the scientists to follow the circulation of the cell in the blood vessels to the rat’s ear and then through the blood stream, lymphatic system and tissue using a Raman spectrometer.
In Dr. Biris and Dr. Zharov’s second article, “Nanophotothermolysis of multiple scattered cancer cells with carbon nanotubes guided by time-resolved infrared thermal imaging,” which also appeared in the Journal of Biomedical Optics, discusses how nanoparticles can tag cancer cells and then using a laser, kill the cancer cells by heating the nanoparticles.
Dr. Brisis explained, “If we are able to target cancer cells using these nanomaterials, we can monitor where the cancer cells are specifically located, and then we can kill them." In the tests involving rats the process leaves a dead cell and nanoparticles that will disintegrate and die within a couple of hours.
"The research Dr. Biris and Dr. Zharov have conducted indeed is significant and promising," commented Dr. Mary Good, Dean of UALR’s Donaghey College of Engineering and Information Technology. "It points to a whole new direction for medical applications for nanoparticles. There still is extensive time needed for research into the ultimate utility for these approaches and for human subject experiments. But this early work is exciting and provides long-term hope for more effective cancer treatments."
The hope for doctors such as Dr. David Sugarbaker, a leading Thoracic Surgeon and an expert in the treatment of mesothelioma, is that this new discovery can be applied to rare cancers where previous treatments have not succeeded. Previous mesothelioma treatments have included surgery, chemotherapy and radiation are usually ineffective once mesothelioma is diagnosed and new treatments are continually being researched.
Concerns about the safety of carbon nanotubes, however, remain, as previous laboratory testing revealed that, when injected into lab mice, carbon nanotubes may cause cancer, much like asbestos. Researchers, scientists and doctors all agree that there is no need for panic regarding these findings, as it is highly unlikely that a human would inhale a carbon nanotube [in products like tennis rackets and golf clubs, carbon nanotubes are extremely well-encased].