Kellogg researchers shine light on new anticancer nanoparticle

Researchers from the University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center have been developing a nanoparticle that proved effective in killing tumor cells in a mouse model. And their work points toward a novel therapy for ocular cancer as well as other disorders in the field of ophthalmology.

Howard Petty and his team at the Kellogg Eye Center published their new work this month in the journal Nanotechnology.

The team used a mouse model for metastatic breast cancer to study the nanoparticle's effect on tumor cells. Their nanoparticle is designed to churn out an anticancer compound as soon as it's illuminated by light, and it killed tumor cells in the eye as well as extended the lives of mice with hard-to-kill 4T1 tumors.

"Our work uses a semiconducting nanoparticle with an attached platinum electrode to drive the synthesis of an anti-cancer compound when illuminated by light," says Petty. "The nanoparticle mimics the behavior of NADPH oxidase, an enzyme used by immune cells to kill tumor cells and infectious agents. Since tumor cells typically use NADPH to protect themselves from toxins, the more NADPH they synthesize for protection, the faster they die."

By harnessing the tumor cell's own protective mechanism against itself the team were able to halt the metabolism of tumor cells and kill them with this new nanoparticle. Since previous monotherapies for this kind of tumor have mostly failed, this work brings with it a new angle on targeting cancers using nanotechnology.

"This treatment offers many advantages," says Petty. "The nanoparticle produces about 20 million toxins per hour in each cell. Also, the nanoparticle is activated by light, so it can be turned on and off simply by exposing it to the correct color of visible light."

- here's the release
- read the journal abstract