A team of researchers from Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center announced yesterday that they have improved the targeting of laser-induced thermal therapy (LITT), an experimental cancer treatment. In LITT, nanoparticles are introduced to the area around a tumor, and then laser treatment is used to heat up the nanoparticles and destroy the cancerous tissue. The Wake Forest researchers improved the treatment by using iron-containing multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWCNTs), which can be tracked within the patient’s body through the use of MRI, thereby allowing more precise delivery of laser treatment and better targeting of neoplastic tissue.
From the Wake Forest press release:
LITT works by virtue of the fact that certain nanoparticles like MWCNTs can absorb the energy of a laser and then convert it into heat. If the nanoparticles are zapped while within a tumor, they will boil off the energy as heat and kill the cancerous cells.
The problem with LITT, however, is that while a tumor may be clearly visible in a medical scan, the particles are not. They cannot be tracked once injected, which could put a patient in danger if the nanoparticles were zapped away from the tumor because the aberrant heating could destroy healthy tissue.
Now the team from Wake Forest Baptist has shown for the first time that it is possible to make the particles visible in the MRI scanner to allow imaging and heating at the same time. By loading the MWCNT particles with iron, they become visible in an MRI scanner. Using tissue containing mouse tumors, they showed that these iron-containing MWCNT particles could destroy the tumors when hit with a laser.