Organic nanoparticle uses sound and heat to find and treat tumors

March 21, 2011

Scientists have created an organic nanoparticle that is non-toxic, biodegradable, and nimble in the way it uses light and heat to treat cancer and deliver drugs, says principal investigator Dr. Gang Zheng, Senior Scientist, Ontario Cancer Institute (OCI) at Princess Margaret Hospital.

Zheng and colleagues combined two naturally occurring molecules (chlorophyll and lipid) to create a unique nanoparticle whose structure allows it to be filled with drugs to treat the tumor it is targeting.

The nanoparticle shows promise for numerous diverse light-based (biophotonic) applications. Its ability to absorb light and accumulate in tumors allows a laser to rapidly heat the tumor to a temperature of 60 degrees Celsius and destroy it. The nanoparticle can also be used for photoacoustic imaging, which combines light and sound to produce a very high-resolution image that can be used to find and target tumors.

Their work appears March 20 online in Nature Materials.