US scientists harness nanoparticles for chemotherapy

In collaboration with the Press Association

Scientists have developed a method of custom designing ultra-small particles that may one day be used to precision-target chemotherapy without affecting healthy tissue.

The research was carried out by MIT and Brigham and Women's Hospital in the US and is published in the online journal the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The researchers engineered tiny sponge-like nanoparticles that could be laced with anti-cancer drugs. The particles were designed to bind to cancer cells in preference to normal cells.

Once the nanoparticles find their way to the targeted cell, they are designed to dissolve, releasing the drug they are carrying.

The method has so far only been demonstrated in laboratory conditions and in limited testing on mice.

"A single injection of our nanoparticles completely eradicated the tumours in five of the seven treated animals," said Dr Omid Farokhzad of Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

"The remaining animals also had significant tumour reduction, compared to the controls," he added.

Researchers stressed that the method remains in the earliest stages of development, and it remains to be seen whether the results can be turned into a usable treatment.