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A cancer treatment that uses a combination of gold nanoshells and near-infrared light to burn tumors while sparing healthy tissue has proven effective in mice.
The approach, being developed by researcher Jennifer West and colleagues at Rice University in Houston, Texas, could be a minimally invasive treatment for tumors in humans.
"We are extremely encouraged by the results of these first animal tests," says West. "These results confirm that nanoshells are effective agents for the photothermal treatment of in vivo tumors."
Nanoshells—tiny particles of silica coated with gold—are about 20 times smaller than a red blood cell.
The cancer treatment developed by the Rice team uses nanoshells tuned to respond to near-infrared light.
Located just outside the visible spectrum, near-infrared light passes harmlessly through soft tissue to the nanoshells.
The nanoshells convert this light into heat, which destroys tumor cells without affecting healthy neighboring tissue.
"will require a considerable amount of further work" to overcome the problem of directing the nanoshells to the specific tumor sites.
but would be most effective on cancers that can't be removed surgically because they're in an awkward location, such as in the brain