Nanoparticles in cancer therapy help reprogram immune cells

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nanoparticles silverThere is a potential new treatment technique in the works using nanoparticles to reprogram immune cells that can recognize and attack cancer cells. Most cancer cells are able to bypass detection by the immune system because they are so similar to normal cells. This allows the cancer cells to multiply and grow freely. Researchers at the University of Georgia are now working on a system specifically targeted to breast cancer that could change the way immune cells respond to cancer cells.

The group has discovered a way to stimulate the immune system to target breast cancer cells using nanoparticles and light. First, they expose cancer cells to nanoparticles 1,000 times finer than a human hair. The nanoparticles enter the cells and penetrate the mitochondria, organelles responsible for producing energy needed for a cell to grow.

They then activate the nanoparticles using laser light to cause disruption of the cancer cells’ normal processes, leading to cell death. The dead cancer cells are exposed to dendritic cells, a component of the immune system, causing the dendritic cells to produce high levels of interferon-gamma to alert the immune system of a foreign object and signal attack.

These preliminary results highlight a potential targeted therapy and treatment of cancer. Right now the approach works on specific breast cancer cells, but if refined, the process could become a general standard treatment for cancer.

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