Nanoparticles in the fight against cancer

Supplementary content information

Professor Peter Dobson and his colleagues discuss the use of nanoparticles to improve cancer treatments

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Professor Peter Dobson – Professor of Engineering Science, University of Oxford [PD]

The current methods of treating cancer are fairly blunt instruments, whether you are using x-rays to do radiotherapy, or you are using chemicals to do chemotherapy. If you use nanoparticles you can be much more precise in your delivery, either of the x-ray effects or of the chemical effects.

Dr Helen Townley – Research Fellow, University of Oxford [HT]

There’s a number of ways that the nanoparticles can be administered. Obviously you have the direct route intratumoral, where you inject the nanoparticles directly into the tumour itself, you have an intravenous route where the nanoparticles are injected into the bloodstream and are then localised to the tumour afterwards, or you can actually put the nanoparticles into a bed where a tumour has been removed for extra therapy afterwards. The nanoparticles themselves, not only are they the correct size to pass out of the vascular chain to the tumours, but also 65 nanometres around that region is a very good size in order to be able to be passively taken up into the cell through the cell membrane itself and then localised into the cytoplasm in exactly the right area where they can do the most damage after activation with the x-rays. The size of the titania nanoparticles which I have fabricated are around 65 nanometres, which is 65 times ten to the minus nine metres and just for reference the size of a cell is around 30 micrometres which is 30 times ten to the minus six metres, which means that you can get around 500 particles into a cell.

[PD]

Helen has been developing a very clever way of making a porous nanoparticle like a little miniature sponge in which she can put the drug and then attach it to a cancer tumour using some chemical targeting method and then the drug is slowly released into the cancer tumour killing just the cancer cells and not the healthy ones nearby.

[HT]

We can therefore put the titania with the erous doped in it into the body and excite the titania specifically by x-rays. This means that if the nanoparticles are in the body generally, they are completely inert and it’s only when they are hit with x-ray energy that they generate the reactive oxygen species and it’s the reactive oxygen species which attack the cancer itself.

This is opening up completely new areas for people with what were previously considered as incurable forms of cancer. We might just be opening the door to treatment. We still have a lot of understanding to build up, but I believe that with some of the new compounds that are being delivered we are forming a more effective delivery mechanism.

[PD]

This is opening up completely new areas for people with what were previously considered as incurable forms of cancer. We might just be opening the door to treatment. We still have a lot of understanding to build up, but I believe that with some of the new compounds that are being delivered we are forming a more effective delivery mechanism.