Just when you think the rapid growth of nano technology has leveled off, scientists take another step with gold nanoshells as a therapeutic device.
Gold nanoshells are hollow structures that have been previously used for diagnostic tests. Along with their small size, gold nanoshells have a unique characteristic that allows them to be used as a therapeutic tool for cancer. The combination of a gold shell and hollow sphere gives them the ability to absorb near infrared light. The light is then converted to heat energy, which selectively destroys cancer cells from within.
Currently, several companies are developing laser-activated drug delivery systems. One early study using a 4 watt, 810-nm near infrared laser produced 93% tumor necrosis and regression in cancer cells. A more recent study using nano bubbles and a 532-nm laser caused over 95% destruction in cancer cells while sparing healthy tissue.
Studies are underway targeting head and neck cancers, and other potential applications include lung, colorectal, and prostate cancer. These are cancers that are accessible to a laser fiber, making them excellent targets for photo thermal modulated cancer drugs such as nanoshells.
It may be several years before the technology becomes main stream, but the idea of a noninvasive cancer therapy with no side effects is pretty exciting! And, gold nanoshells are just the beginning. Scientists have also developed nanoshells coated with antibodies and other therapeutic drugs. Nanoshells could change the way we think about drug delivery.