Nanoparticles can strip out human cancer cells

Scientists have successfully used magnetic nanoparticles to capture and remove cancer cells from human tissue.

“We are primarily interested in developing an effective method to reduce the spread of ovarian cancer cells to other organs,” said John McDonald of the Georgia Institute of Technology.

The discovery builds on work by Ken Scarberry, who developed the technique using mice. In 2008, he and McDonald gave the cancer cells of the mice a fluorescent green tag and stained the magnetic nanoparticles red, and showed that they were able to apply a magnet and move the green cancer cells to the abdominal region.

“Often, the lethality of cancers is not attributed to the original tumor but to the establishment of distant tumors by cancer cells that exfoliate from the primary tumor,” said Scarberry.

“Circulating tumor cells can implant at distant sites and give rise to secondary tumors. Our technique is designed to filter the peritoneal fluid or blood and remove these free floating cancer cells, which should increase longevity by preventing the continued metastatic spread of the cancer.”

In tests, they showed that their technique worked just as well at capturing cancer cells from human patient samples as it did previously in mice.

The next step is to test how well the technique can increase the chances of survival in live animals. If that goes well, they will then test it with humans.

The results appear in Nanomedicine.