Source: Eraxion/Getty
Source: Eraxion/Getty

Biomedical researchers in Canada say they have discovered a “smart” organic, biodegradable nanoparticle that uses heat and light in a controlled manner potentially to target and ablate tumors with greater precision. The proof-of-concept findings [“Controlling Spatial Heat and Light Distribution by Using Photothermal Enhancing Auto-Regulated Liposomes (PEARLs)”], published online in Angewandte Chemie, provide a viable approach to boosting the clinical utility of photothermal therapy in treating cancer, says Gang Zheng, Ph.D., senior scientist at the Princess Margaret and Professor of medical biophysics at the University of Toronto. Dr. Zheng also holds the Joey and Toby Tanenbaum/Brazilian Ball Chair in Prostate Cancer Research.

In laboratory research, the smart nanoparticle the team has dubbed PEARLs (photothermal enhancing auto-regulating liposomes) showed how it can solve the two bottlenecks currently preventing more effective use of photothermal therapy with patients. These are overheating of tissue that can cause collateral damage during treatment and the inability to ablate larger tumor volumes because the light stops travelling when it is absorbed.

“Our smart nanoparticle is super cool,” explains Dr. Zheng, a chemist. ”It can absorb light, generate heat, and ablate the tumor. It's a thermal sensor, and once it reaches the desired ablation temperature of 55oC, it becomes invisible, allowing the light to move deeper into more areas of tumor and repeat the treatment process.”

“The result is a promising new way to heat and ablate larger volumes of tumor with minimal damage to surrounding tissues in a controlled and precise way. The next step is to conduct preclinical studies to test the concept further.”

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