Killing tumor cells without harming normal tissue is the great challenge of cancer treatment. Carl Batt and his team from Cornell University are working on a way to do just that.
The researchers used a two step process to ambush tumor cells from the inside. They first attached an antibody specific to colorectal cancer cells to nanoparticles made of gold and iron oxide. The antibodies bound the tiny constructs to the surfaces of the cancer cells, which promptly engulfed the nanoparticles. The next step was to use a near-infrared laser on the cells. This low-powered laser has no effect on normal cells, but the gold inside the cancerous cells absorbs the radiation, heating and killing those cells. Tissue culture tests of this treatment have been promising.