A promising approach currently being studied in labs around the world for killing cancer cells involves delivering nanoparticles to tumors that can be made to heat up in the presence of an electromagnetic field. It takes only about a ten degree rise in a tumor cell’s temperature for it to die, while healthy cells tend to be more resilient to heat.
Iron-oxide nanoparticles are probably the best for this job, but there’s a variety of ways of packaging them, so researchers at University of Cincinnati wanted to see which heat up best under the same conditions. The problem is not delivering too much RF energy which would destroy healthy tissue, so having efficient nanoparticles is very important. The team tested uncoated iron-oxide nanoparticles, iron-oxide nanoparticles coated with polyacrylic acid (PAA), a polystyrene nanosphere with iron-oxide nanoparticles uniformly embedded in its matrix, and
a polystyrene nanosphere with iron-oxide nanoparticles uniformly embedded in its matrix but with a thin film surface of silica. To make a long story short, the team found that unconfined iron-oxide nanoparticles were best in converting an electromagnetic field into heat. The PAA coated nanoparticles also heated up to sufficient levels, but the other two didn’t get up to temperatures enough to kill cancer cells.