Oregon State University researchers have developed a novel effective nanoparticle, also known as a nano-heater, that can produce sufficient heat within tumors after injections. 

“The ultimate goal of the research is to develop an effective agent for magnetic hyperthermia to treat cancer that can be delivered specifically to cancer tumors,” Dr. Olena Taratula said. Taratula is an Associate Professor and Senior Researcher at the OSU College of Pharmacy. “The magnetic hyperthermia approach could be potentially used alone to eradicate cancer tumors or in combination with conventional therapies such as chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and radiotherapy. We aim to have nanoparticles in the cancer cells produce heat.”

A nanoparticle is an extremely small molecule with size ranging from 1 to 100 nanometers. Magnetic nanoclusters that were developed by the research group were composed of cobalt and manganese-doped, hexagon-shaped iron oxide nanoparticles which were again encapsulated in biocompatible nanocarriers.

The research paper published by the group explained the non-spherical shape of the particle being a key reason for superior heating efficiency. Treatments using nanoparticles possess a lower risk of destroying healthy cells in the body because nanoparticles have an affinity for tumor cells at an elevated temperature. Through research conducted on mice with subcutaneous ovarian tumors, it was proven that nanocluster-mediated hyperthermia was effective in inhibiting tumor growth. 

“Despite the treatment’s promising therapeutic potential, nanoparticle-mediated magnetic hyperthermia is currently restricted to the treatment of relatively accessible cancer tumors,” Taratula said.  “The required therapeutic temperatures above 40 °C can only be generated by direct intratumoral injection of conventional iron oxide nanoparticles – and thus we developed the nano-heaters that are delivered intravenously with the capability to elevate intratumoral temperature up to 44 °C ”.

One of the drawbacks of treating cancer tumors with nanoparticles is the need for an additional second component that produces a magnetic field in order to heat the nanocluster particles. Additionally, the commercialization of treatments like these depends on extra funding of cancer research. 

“Normal cells typically recover faster than cancer cells when exposed to either heat or the combination of heat and radiation,” Taratula said via email. “Additionally, normal tissues have more blood flow than cancerous tissue so that they dissipate heat better. If the heat is interrupted, then thermal recovery occurs; normal tissues such as the skin are particularly effective in dissipating heat. For cancer treatment, this is fortunate.”

If magnetic hyperthermia treatment is developed into an effective in-clinic therapy, it alone or in combination with other therapies would be highly efficient in treating cancer and lower the cost of treatment.

To visit the Cancer Biotherapy & Radiopharmaceuticals report, visit this link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2987268/

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