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Biotech Medicine Science

Golden Nanocages To Put the Heat On Cancer Cells 97

Posted by kdawson
from the hot-in-here-or-is-it-me dept.
ElectricSteve writes "Researchers have been searching for a highly targeted medical treatment that attacks cancer cells but leaves healthy tissue alone. The approach taken by scientists at Washington University in St. Louis is to use 'gold nanocages' that, when injected, selectively accumulate in tumors. When the tumors are later bathed in laser light, the surrounding tissue is barely warmed, but the nanocages convert light to heat, killing the malignant cells. ... Although the tumors took up enough gold nanocages to give them a black cast, only 6 percent of the injected particles accumulated at the tumor site. They would like that number to be closer to 40 percent so that fewer particles would have to be injected. They plan to attach tailor-made ligands to the nanocages that recognize and lock onto receptors on the surface of the tumor cells. ... The scientists at WUSTL have just received a five-year, $2.1M grant from the National Cancer Institute to continue their work with photothermal therapy." Note that Gizmag features a stupid Subscribe nag that covers your screen after about a minute; sounds like a job for NoScript. Last year we discussed somewhat similar research using titanium dioxide nanoparticles to target a particular kind of brain cancer.
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Golden Nanocages To Put the Heat On Cancer Cells

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  • So gold and money cure sickness. That's a news!

    • I hope you're being sarcastic, 'cause health has ALWAYS been for people with money.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by YayaY (837729)

        Please forget my ignorance. I'm canadian.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Health_care_in_Canada [wikipedia.org]

        • by meyekul (1204876)

          Please forget my ignorance. I'm canadian.

          Let me explain it for you then. You see, whenever you get something for nothing, it generally sucks.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by poetmatt (793785)

            I'm sorry, where is the logic there?

            Have you ever had your eyes open for the last 20 years about anything in existence?

            free on computing: it generally rocks
            free on healthcare: it generally rocks
            free food: that sucks?

            I'm an american and I think you don't know what the hell you're talking about.

            • by sarlos (903082)
              Free healthcare and free food are free as in beer -- someone somewhere has to eat the cost of it. Even 'free' when it comes to computing is rarely really free... When we run out of other people's money to spend on things, well, then your free healthcare and free food are going to suck.
              • by vegiVamp (518171)

                Free healthcare works pretty much the same as the insurance companies: it's about averages. Everyone pools in a bit of dough, and it gets redistributed to the ones who need it at that moment.

                There are obviously a few differences:
                * Because the pool is so large (whole-country level), the individual donation will be less
                * The state may occasionally or regularly pour some more money in because there's an imbalance. Given that that comes from your taxes anyway, that's still everyone paying for th

                • by sarlos (903082)
                  Then explain to me the rationing that occurs in every nation with socialized health care? There never seems to be enough of other people's money (aka - taxes) to pay enough. The answer always seems to be that not enough money is being spent, yet despite ballooning costs, no nation has yet solved the problem. America still serves as the emergency room for the wealthy who can afford to get cutting edge treatments, and America still makes most major medical and drug breakthroughs. I don't know about you, b
                  • by vegiVamp (518171)

                    Given that I'm not in the industry, I'm not aware of such data and would very much like to see sources for your claims. Merely shouting "we're the best" doesn't make it so.

                  • by Bakkster (1529253)

                    Then explain to me the rationing that occurs in every nation with socialized health care? There never seems to be enough of other people's money (aka - taxes) to pay enough.

                    As soon as you explain to me the rationing that occurs with every health insurance company. There never seems to be enough of other people's money (aka - premiums) to pay enough.

                    Let's face it, we're already paying in to a system that rations care. The difference is that this care is selective, so as soon as one person costs 'too much' (often through no fault of their own, except unfortunate genetics) the plan drops them and puts that money toward an executive bonus. That's supposed to be the risk the in

                  • by Abcd1234 (188840)

                    Then explain to me the rationing that occurs in every nation with socialized health care?

                    Ahh, the good ol' "rationing" bogeyman. That lovely talking point of the right, cleverly phrased to bring back memories of food and water shortages. Much scarier than the more accurate word to describe this: triage.

                    Pro-tip: Unless you have a doctor, nurse, equipment, facilities, etc, for every single patient in the system, there will *always* be "rationing", no matter how the system is structured.

                    Seriously, get your

                    • by sarlos (903082)
                      I linked this in another post here, but this is a good look at funding and availability structures and, yes, rationing, under government run health care systems:

                      http://www.stockholm-network.org/downloads/publications/Health_Technology_Assessment_in_Context.pdf [stockholm-network.org]

                      Europe is burdened by its historical commitment to expanding entitlement with the result that HTA is increasingly performed with cost-containment in mind. Interest in HTA in Europe and Canada has increased because of the need to justify expenditure o

                    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                      by Abcd1234 (188840)

                      Ah, I see. So since you can't reason effectively, you just change the subject.

                      "HTA" is not rationing. Furthermore, "HTA" *exactly* the same thing that insurance companies in the US already do today: examine treatment options with the goal of optimizing the cost-benefit ratio.

                      Okay, that's not strictly true. Insurance companies couldn't care less about the benefit, so long as it reduces cost.

                      And as an aside, availability of drugs is not an indicator of quality of care. Furthermore, while a wider variety

                    • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

                      by sarlos (903082)
                      Oh, I see, you prefer to do all your own original research rather than trying to find folks who do a good job of combing over the research themselves, I'm sorry. Please, feel free to enlighten me by showing me how government control of anything increases supply of it. I'll only accept original applications though, no plagiarism now!

                      Command and control economies lead to scarcity, a fact born out repeatedly in history. Extreme examples in today's world are Cuba, North Korea, and China. Anyway, you aske
                    • by Abcd1234 (188840)

                      Command and control economies lead to scarcity, a fact born out repeatedly in history.

                      The fact that you can't see a difference between "command and control economies" and modern single-payer healthcare speaks volumes about the level of your intellect (though, to be fair, it's probably typical for a libertarian).

                    • by poetmatt (793785)

                      I don't care what you hate or don't but really, you're comparing healthcare to communism. That alone means it's genuinely clear you don't have a shred of an inkling of what you are talking about.

                      Please tell me again how socialism equals communism when we already live in a socialist society. (notice the words there!) Not that you have an answer to this.

                      Examples: welfare, social security, education, public roads, public transportation.

                      Are you going to tell me all of those are communist and/or that Canada (and

                • by mattack2 (1165421)

                  Why did a Canadian premier named Danny Williams come to the US for heart surgery instead of using the vaunted Canadian health care system?

              • by poetmatt (793785)

                please. if you're trying to say you can't have free computing you're full of shit.

                The difference here is that "Free" is a hell of a lot cheaper than something that "isn't free".

            • by meyekul (1204876)

              I'm sorry, where is the logic there?

              For every Firefox, OpenOffice, or GIMP there are 1000 Wild Tangents or FREE Animated Pony screen savers. So, yes I would call that generally sucking. I feel comfortable in the fact that my doctor makes far more money than my mechanic. I've never taken my girlfriend out to a romantic dinner at the local soup kitchen. That's my logic, where is yours?

        • by corbettw (214229)

          Does that mean you fly to the States for complex operations?

      • by operagost (62405)
        Food and clothing have also been for people with money. As soon as you decide that something is a right, and it's OK to allow the state to take things from innocent people to give it to others, you might as well go all in.
  • by Pareto Efficient (1622141) on Tuesday March 16, 2010 @01:43AM (#31492234)
    This reminds me of reading about the middle ages practice of the wealthy eating powdered precious and semi precious metals and gemstones to cure ailments.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Kinda funny really, but we still have people who think that same powdered silver [mayoclinic.com] (and to a lesser extent, gold [purestcolloids.com]) is for internal use in curing pretty much everything.

      • by Cryacin (657549)
        Unobtaining mixed with Balonium cures what ails you! Lickety Split!
      • by toastar (573882)

        isn't silver an antibiotic?

        Not that you should drink the stuff, but I was always told the silver spoon old wives tale was based in reality.

        • by ChromeAeonium (1026952) on Tuesday March 16, 2010 @02:47AM (#31492480)

          Topically, like in socks, or in a petri dish, yes, silver is antibacterial, and it does has legitimate usage. In your body, not so much. I don't think anyone has ever been able to demonstrate that it will do anything for people (besides maybe give you argyria). So in this case there is a very small grain of truth hidden in the alt-med woo-woo, but not enough to make it sensible medical advice.

          • Doctors do use metals, and silver does have antibiotic effeects....
            There have not been enough good studies done, so doctors are not allowed to perscribe it.
            Gold and iron are used as well as chromium, and other minerals.
            In fact minerals are essential to life and if you don't get enough it is as bad as getting too much.

            Does silver work... MAYBE.
            .
            • If Docs aren't allowed to prescribe silver, then how do they use it?

              Also, silver sounds like a rather silly idea [quackwatch.org] when we have actual antibiotics.

              This isn't a "MAYBE", this is a "we stopped using silver a long time ago because we developed better things and it is bad for you."
          • So it kills the symbiotic bacteria as well...
      • Yeah, and eating silver will turn your skin blue [foxnews.com]. Not like Avatar blue, but pretty close.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by QuoteMstr (55051)
          1. Don't link to Fox News. Ever. Murdoch peddles an insidious mix of propaganda and fluff that's intended to neuter our ability to think. The less attention you pay to it, the better.
          2. Silver poisoning doesn't just turn your skin blue: it also causes brain damage.
          3. The story you mention is a cautionary tale about quack medicine in general. "Alternative medicine" that works is just called "medicine". What remains is ineffective, unsafe, or in the case of this poor man, both.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by mattack2 (1165421)

            Sheesh, I don't like Fox News either, but that is an *actual* news article, with a picture showing the ailment being discussed.

    • Gold is still used to treat arthritis. Since arthritis is a hodge podge of ailments it doesn't always work though.

      However a doctor in Vancouver Canada said:

      "Nothing works as well as gold, when gold works".

  • by timmarhy (659436) on Tuesday March 16, 2010 @01:43AM (#31492238)
    I think we might actually see the end to cancer in our life time. only 50 years ago pretty much any cancer was a death sentence, but now if detected early they have 80% and up 5 year survival rates with some kinds.

    of course with cancer gone we will see many more old age illnesses due to an unnaturally long life. it'd be a nice problem to have i guess, to have people live so long that we hit biological age limitations.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by CoolGopher (142933)

      If you mod me down, I will become more powerful than you can imagine....

      I'd like to put this to the test, but first I will have to source some outside funding of mod points. It's all in the name of SCIENCE! =D

    • There is a TED talk that is relevant. http://www.ted.com/talks/catherine_mohr_surgery_s_past_present_and_robotic_future.html [ted.com] Gene therapies are also advancing rapidly.
      • Yup. I'm investing in a company that is using virus delivery methods (Non replicating) to deliver a tumor necrosis protein in cases of pancreatic cancer. It's somewhat self serving, in that I'd make money if they do, but I'm also on a medication now that has a chance of giving me an inflamed pancreas and elevated risk of cancer.
        • by maxume (22995)

          It sounds nearly entirely self serving.

          But that's the point of trade and capitalism, they align self interest with the interests of others.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by VeasMKII (1373385)
      Cancer is actually a biological age limitation. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Telomere [wikipedia.org]
      • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) * on Tuesday March 16, 2010 @03:56AM (#31492654) Homepage Journal

        Cancer is actually a biological age limitation.

        Most cell lines suffer telomere deterioriation as they age, i.e. as the cells in the line reproduce; cell lines which can halt this process before the telomeres are completely lost become "immortal" and are therefore cancerous. So in other words, cancer is the exact opposite of a "biological age limitation" -- it's the result of cells escaping the limitations of age.

        • by QuoteMstr (55051) <dan.colascione@gmail.com> on Tuesday March 16, 2010 @05:40AM (#31493080)

          it's the result of cells escaping the limitations of age

          Yes, a cell becomes cancerous when it manages to mutate away the multiple redundant control mechanisms that prevent unchecked growth, one of which is the telomere length. (It acts as sort of a biological version of an IP TTL field.) That having been done, a cell can not only escape the normal age limits, but actually become an organism in its own right [wikipedia.org].

          However, you have to take into account that mutations are cumulative, and that as we become older, the probability that any one cell will have all the necessary mutations to become cancerous skyrockets. The effect is that cancer (or let's call it "cumulative chromosomal corruption") has been one of the limiting factors on age.

          Yes, it looks increasingly likely that we can keep cancer at bay. But we run into other problems: congestive heart failure and degenerative neural diseases are next on the list of problems to beat. In the long view, we're ultimately limited by the capacity of our brains. In our lifetimes, it'll probably be possible to keep our bodies alive indefinitely. But if we're senile and insensitive, what difference does it make?

          The ultimate solution, of course, is the famous transhumanist dream: uploading our minds to different, and presumably more durable, containers. And though I can hope for that, I don't see that technology being available in the lifetime of anyone reading this message. It's more plausible that we'll end our days in reasonable physical shape, but with minds as helpless as those of children.

    • We have already hit the biological age limitation a long time ago, every time we cure a disease that's suppose to kill someone. Unless you are referring to a time where our bodies would actually fall apart which I think would be solved not too long from now (parts of the DNA do have data referring to the "age" of the cells, as in, what generation are they, and it's being researched pretty heavily but it seems that not too long from now they'll find a way to stop the aging process completely). How about tha
      • by timmarhy (659436)
        I think advances in science would increase vastly if we could live for even 200 years. there' problems it takes several life times of research to solve. it would also make long space flights a possibility, since a 30 year flight suddenly isn't the best years of your life wasted.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 16, 2010 @02:20AM (#31492392)

    This is similar in principle to the Kanzius machine [kanziuscan...search.com] -- same idea, dope the cancer with some kind of radiation-sensitive material, then blast it. Kanzius wanted to use radio waves, but didn't know how to dope the cancer, but his oncologist knew a researcher at MD Anderson Cancer Center who was treating Nobel Laureate Rick Smalley [latimes.com] -- one of the inventors of C-60, aka Buckminsterfullerene. Turns out that's a pretty good radiation target!

    Sounds like these guys are on to the same basic concept with lasers and gold. Targeted doping of cancer cells seems like a very promising concept.

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      what's really funny is that I doped your mom like a cancer cell before I boned her and became your father.

  • by Alex Belits (437) * on Tuesday March 16, 2010 @02:46AM (#31492478) Homepage

    6%? What happened with the remaining 94%? Did they accumulate elsewhere (and then the whole thing is so far an epic fail)?

    • Well, considering that your body is hopefully a few orders of magnitude larger than the tumour...
  • If you can irradiate it with a laser then you can see it. So why not just cut the bastard out? Or hit it with an ion beam which does much more damage than a laser and is just as selective as the gold nanocage method?
    • by compro01 (777531)

      Just because you can see it doesn't mean you can reasonably differentiate it from the surrounding normal cells. This discovery takes care of that for you.

  • Ok, I think I understand. It's sort of a Golden Shower of nanocages that bathes the tumors in a reactive substance? Fun.
  • Photodynamic therapy (Score:3, Informative)

    by paiute (550198) on Tuesday March 16, 2010 @07:40AM (#31493570)

    This is another form of photodynamic therapy

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photodynamic_therapy [wikipedia.org]

    The problem has always to find a chemical which would accumulate in tumors and not in healthy tissures and would also respond to radiation by generating cell-killing chemicals. Not an easy couple of parameters to satisfy.

  • They have been researching this for _years_. The grant may be news, granted. But the technique itself?

  • by SlashBugs (1339813) on Tuesday March 16, 2010 @08:32AM (#31493814)
    This is a cool variation on a basic idea that's been used before, and will make a great payload for cancer treatment. However, killing cancer cells is not all that difficult; rather targeting cancer cells is hard. It's all about the therapeutic index, i.e. the ratio of damage done to cancer cells against damage done to healthy tissue.

    Talking about cancer as "a disease" is a big misnomer; at best it's a huge family of diseases (really nice explanation in this comic [phdcomics.com]). Patterns do emerge -- certain tissues tend to have similar patterns of gene expression between people and therefore tend to give rise to similar cancers -- but each cancer that arises comes about in a different way, and evolves in response to different selective pressures within the body. The biggest of these pressures are fairly obvious like the need for neutrients (so "successful" cancers are the ones that evolve the ability to encourage blood vessels to grow around them) and evading the immune system. So, almost by definition, the outside of a cancer cell is forced to look as similar as possible to the outside or a healthy cell in the same tissue, to avoid detection.

    There are some exploitable internal differences. Most cancers (but by no means all, or even close to all) express hTERT, a gene responsible for repairing the telomeres, whose degradation would otherwise limit the cells' replication. So some researchers (including my former lab) are working on techniques to exploit that e.g. viruses that can only kill cells expressing hTERT. The downside is that some legitimate cells also express hTERT, most notably your stem cells (bone marrow, some other tissues).

    Another popular method is just targeting all cells that are highly metabolically active. Cancer cells tend to be working unusually hard (most cells in your body just sit there gently ticking over most of the time), so some cancer therapies target any cells that are burning through a lot of glucose (e.g. radiolabelled glucose is used as a source for imaging techniques like Positron Emission Tomography) or that are doing a lot of DNA replication as part of cell division. Again, though, this targets many cells in your body which are working this hard as a normal part of their programmes.

    So, yeah, this is a cool payload but targeting is the hard part. If we knew what ligands to tie these particles to for targeting and how to persuade these huge particles to move against a pressure gradient and through a dense, disorganised extra-cellular matrix, cancers wouldn't be half the problem that they actually are. We could be using targeted viruses (piece of piss to do if you know what you're targeting and the surrounding tissue isn't too dense), metal nanoparticles, targeted liposomes (little hollow balls of fat) containing toxins or toxin precursors, modified antibodies to alert the immune system to the cancer cells, etc, etc.

    Curing a cancer would be pretty easy: throw enough researchers and resources at one patient's specific tumour and we'll come up with a damn fine treatment. But curing all cancers -- different tumours arising from different tissues in different patients -- is seriously hard. We'll see fantastic advances in treating specific cancer types, but I seriously doubt that "a cure for cancer" is possible within our lifetimes. Although, heh, if you prove me wrong I won't be too upset :).
    • Curing a cancer would be pretty easy: throw enough researchers and resources at one patient's specific tumour and we'll come up with a damn fine treatment. But curing all cancers -- different tumours arising from different tissues in different patients -- is seriously hard. We'll see fantastic advances in treating specific cancer types, but I seriously doubt that "a cure for cancer" is possible within our lifetimes. Although, heh, if you prove me wrong I won't be too upset :).

      Yeah, an oncologist once told m

  • Why don't they just use regular nanocages with little Yves-Saint-Laurent logos on them?

  • The Doktors used to put those big-ass radiation pellets into your prostate. NOW they put those LITTLE-ass radiation pellets into your prostate. Better Living Thru Chemistry???

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