Carbon Nanotubes May Be Used to Treat Cancer

2010-01-06 1,321

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Carbon nanotubes, known for their remarkable properties that can be used for advanced electronics and materials, appear to have the potential to be used for combating cancer as well, local scientists said Tuesday.

A research team led by Kosin University’s Lee Sang-ho and Pohang University of Science and Technology’s (POSTECH) Choi Hee-cheul claimed to have discovered a method to allow carbon nanotubes to be used as agents for photo-thermal therapy in a study published by peer-reviewed journal, American Chemical Society (ACS) Nano.

The method showed promising results when tested on lab mice, the scientists said.

“The injection of a large amount of single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) have shown the ability to target and destroy tumor cells in mice, through the heat produced upon excitation by near-infrared light,” Lee said.

“We will now pursue clinical trials to see if the method works on humans.”

Carbon nanotubes are hollow cylinders of carbon just one atom thick. Photo-thermal therapy, still considered an experimental approach, is based on using electromagnetic radiation for treating cancer and other medical conditions.

Carbon nanotubes are an ideal candidate as photo-thermal therapeutic agents since they generate a significant amount of heat when exposed to near-infrared light, the researchers said.

To test the method, the researchers transplanted human throat and stomach cancer cells into 40 mice. Some of the animals were injected with singled-walled carbon nanotubes and then were exposed to near-infrared light irradiation, from a source about 10 centimeters away.

The tumor cells in the treated mice were completely destroyed, and the animals experienced no harmful side effects or recurrence of tumors after 6 months.

The tumor cells in other groups of mice grew continuously until their death.

Most of the carbon nanotubes in the treated mice were excreted from their bodies within two months through the passing of urine, the researchers said.