Nanotechnology is really an exciting field. One that has tons upon tons of potential in advancing the human race. One of the most viable uses of nanotech is medicine and in particular fighting cancer.
Now, women have another reason to be hopeful against ovarian cancer as immunologists from Dartmouth Medical school have found a way to use nanoparticles in reprogramming cells that have been co-opted by tumor cells to turn back to the ‘good side’ and kill the tumor cells.
The Dartmouth work focuses on dendritic cells–an immune cell particularly abundant in the ovarian cancer environment. Dendritic cells are phagocytes–the soldiers of the immune system that gobble up bacteria and other pathogens, but ovarian cancer has co-opted them for its own use, he continued. “So we were trying to restore the attributes of these dendritic cells–the good guys; they become Trojan horses.”
Cancer is more than tumor cells; many other circulating cells including the dendritic phagocytes converge to occupy nearby space. The dendritic cells around ovarian cancer scoop up the nanocomplexes, composed of a polymer and small interfering RNA (siRNA) molecules to silence their immunosuppressive activity.
Nanoparticle incorporation transforms them from an immunosuppressive to an immunostimulatory cell type at tumor locations, provoking anti-tumor responses and also directly killing tumor cells. The effect is particularly striking with an siRNA designed to silence the gene responsible for making an immune protein called PD-L.
However, the researches offer a word of caution in connection to this new technique. Since it activates anti-tumor responses including inflammation, inducing such a response to an already weakened cancer patient may have negative effects.
Further clinical tests using sample human ovarian cancer cells suggested the feasibility of this new technique. Once more, science has come to the aid of man in helping him fight cancer.
Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (2009, July 16). Trojan Horse For Ovarian Cancer: Nanoparticles Turn Immune System Soldiers