The Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning (MSIP) announced on July 9 that a research team led by professor Lee Ji-won from Korea University and Dr. Kim Kwang-myung from the Korea Institute of Science and Technology successfully developed a new nanomaterial that can improve the efficiency and increase the safety of light and heat treatments for cancer.
Light and heat treatments kill cancer cells using heat that occurs when gold nanoparticles absorb near-infrared lasers. The treatment involves exposing cancer areas to lasers after transferring gold nanoparticles. To make the method more effective, 20-nanometer-class gold particles are actively researched, since those gold nanoparticles can absorb highly-penetrable near-infrared lasers very well, and they are excellent in phototherapy.
However, gold nanoparticles at that size reportedly have potential risks because of excretory problems. Moreover, they are difficult to be delivered to cancer areas. Hence, they are not widely utilized.
The new nanomaterial combines with cancer cells rather than normal cells, dissolves easily, and can easily be discharged from the body through the voluntary denaturation of proteins. The new material consists of peptides — a compound of amino acids that stick to cancer cells of the surface of protein nanoparticles — and gold nanodots below 3 nm in size.
Using the new nanomaterial, the research team treated a mouse stricken by cancer after being exposed to breast cancer cells. After studying organs and tissues of the mouse for three weeks, they found that cancer cells were destroyed and gold nanoparticles were not inside the body of the animal.
Professor Lee remarked, “The newly-developed nanomaterial maximizes the efficiency of the light and heat treatment, and can be a clue to the problem related to organs and tissues caused by the accumulation of gold nanoparticles in the body.”
The study was funded by the MSIP, and the research findings were first published online on July 8 by Advanced Materials, a weekly scientific journal covering materials science.