Intelligent Nanoparticles Kill Cancer Cells

Researchers at the University of Surrey can destroy cancer cells through controlled heating of nanoparticles with targeted delivery capabilities.

Many current cancer treatments suffer from damage to healthy cells along with the destruction of cancer cells. Thermotherapy is no exception. Tumor cells can be harmed and even killed at temperatures of 42-45 °C, but thermotherapy today cannot be easily delivered to patients without harming surrounding healthy cells.

That may change if a new type of nanoparticle treatment proves practical. Scientists at the University of Surrey’s Advanced Technology Institute, working in conjunction with researchers at the Dalian University of Technology in China, have developed nanoparticles that are temperature self-regulating. The Zn-Co-Cr magnetic ferrite nanoparticles do not become heated above 45°C, are low in toxicity and thus are not expected to cause harm to cells in other ways.

Magnetic induced hyperthermia is a traditional method for treating malignant tumors, but because it is difficult to control the temperature, its use has been limited, according to Dr. Wei Zhang, an Associate Professor at the Dalian University of Technology. “If we can modulate the magnetic properties of the nanoparticles, the therapeutic temperature can be self-regulated, eliminating the use of clumsy temperature monitoring and controlling systems,” he says.

Magnetic materials are needed with Curie temperatures falling in the range of hyperthermia temperatures, in order to allow the self-regulation of therapeutics, according to Zhang. “For most magnetic materials, however, the Curie temperature is much higher than the human body can endure. By adjusting the components as we have, we have synthesized nanoparticles with Curie temperatures as low as 34°C. This is a major nanomaterials breakthrough,” he states.

Adds Professor Ravi Silva, Head of the Advanced Technology Institute at the University of Surrey: “This could potentially be a game changer in the way we treat people who have cancer. If we can keep cancer treatment set at a temperature level high enough to kill the cancer, while low enough to stop harming healthy tissue, it will prevent some of the serious side effects of vital treatment.”


Nigel Walker

Mr. Walker is the founder and managing director of That’s Nice LLC, a research-driven marketing agency with 20 years dedicated to life sciences. Nigel harnesses the strategic capabilities of Nice Insight, the research arm of That’s Nice, to help companies communicate science-based visions to grow their businesses. Mr. Walker earned a bachelor’s degree in graphic design with honors from London College of Communication, University of the Arts London, England.