Study Tests Antibody-Coated Nanotubes and NIR Light to Kill Cancer Cells

June 26, 2008
Pharmaceutical Technology Editors

Biomedical researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center and nanotechnology scientists at UT Dallas are collaborating on a study that seeks to selectively kill cancer cells using monoclonal antibodies to coat carbon nanotubes that heat up when exposed to near-infrared (NIR) light.

Dallas, TX (June 16)-Biomedical researchers at the University of Texas (UT) Southwestern Medical Center and nanotechnology scientists at UT Dallas are collaborating on a study that seeks to selectively kill cancer cells using monoclonal antibodies to coat carbon nanotubes that heat up when exposed to near-infrared (NIR) light. The antibodies specifically target sites on lymphoma cells.

The research team showed that in cultures of cancerous lymphoma cells, the antibody-coated nanotubes attached to the cells’ surfaces. When the cells were exposed to NIR light, the nanotubes heated to the point of “cooking” the cells and killing them. In a separate study, scientists demonstrated that nanotubes that had been coated with an unrelated antibody did not bind to the tumor cells and were not able to kill the cells.

Although there has been research using nanotubes to destroy cancer cells with heat, the UT study is the first to show that both the antibody and the carbon nanotubes retained their physical properties and their functional abilities (i.e., binding and killing only the targeted cancer cells), even when the antibody-nanotube complex was placed in a setting designed to mimic conditions inside a human body. The NIR light would be an external light source, known to penetrate human tissue to about 1.5 inches.

Nanoparticle technology has gained considerable attention in research. One challenge has been to ensure new nanomaterial does not damage healthy cells and organisms. “There are rational approaches to detecting and minimizing the potential for nonspecific toxicity of the nanoparticles developed in our studies,” says Rockford Draper, professor of molecular and cell biology and leader of the UT Dallas research team.

The research teams plans to carry their research into clinical trials using mice models.