Heating cancer cells with magnetic nanoparticles can enhance chemotherapy
A new study led by researchers from University College London suggests that combining traditional chemotherapy with an experimental therapy using magnetic nanoparticles to heat up tumor cells could significantly enhance the efficacy of both treatments.
Researchers have known for decades that selectively heating up tumor cells can be an effective way destroy cancer as they are much more sensitive to heat than healthy cells. Whereas healthy cells can withstand temperatures up to 45 °C (113 °F), cancer cells begin to die at around 42 °C (107 °F).
To turn this knowledge into an effective clinical treatment scientists have developed a method to selectively heat up only targeted cancer cells. Known as magnetic hyperthermia, the technique involves delivering magnetic particles to the site of a tumor and then using an alternating magnetic field to selectively heat, and kill, the specific cancer cells without harming surrounding healthy tissue.
The method has remained mostly theoretical for years but recent advances in nanotechnology led to the development of novel magnetic nanoparticles that enabled the clinical realization of this treatment, which is currently only used in humans to treat a very aggressive form of brain cancer.
While some researchers are working to optimize these nanoparticles, making them more efficient and effective, this new research set out to quantify the synergistic effect of combining magnetic hyperthermia with conventional chemotherapy.
In vitro research was conducted on three different cancer cell lines (prostate, brain and breast), testing a previously developed magnetic nanoparticle loaded with a commonly used chemotherapy drug called doxorubicin. In all instances the novel nanoparticle therapy destroyed more cancer cells than tests using the chemotherapy drug alone. In the most successful experiment, the nanoparticle therapy was 34 percent more effective at killing brain cancer cells than doxorubicin by itself.
“Our study shows the enormous potential of combining chemotherapy with heat treatment delivered via magnetic nanoparticles,” says Nguyen Thanh, senior author on the new study.
The research suggests the combination of the two treatments generates a synergistic effect, with each method amplifying the potency of the other. Moving forward, Thanh says more pre-clinical work is needed to home in on the most effective ways to deploy this novel therapy.
"While this combination of therapy is already approved for the treatment of fast-growing glioblastomas, our results suggest it has potential to be used more widely as a broad anti-cancer therapy,” says Thanh. "This therapy also has potential to reduce the side effects of chemotherapy, by ensuring it is more highly targeted on cancer cells rather than healthy tissue. This needs to be explored in further pre-clinical tests."
The new research was published in the Journal of Materials Chemistry B.
Source: University College London