CORVALLIS, Ore. -- Scientists at Oregon State University have found a way to destroy ovarian cancer cells using nanotechnology, according to a new study released Thursday.
Researchers are excited about the initial findings that show a combination of heat and chemotherapy can kill 95 percent of the cancer cells. So far, the research has only been done in a laboratory, but scientists hope to improve on the results in continued tests.
Ovarian cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths in women, killing 150,000 women every year. The cancer is particularly resistant to chemotherapy and often returns after an initial remission.
“Ovarian cancer is rarely detected early, and because of that chemotherapy is often needed in addition to surgery,” said Oleh Tarantula, an assistant professor in the OSU College of Pharmacy in a press release. “It’s essential for the chemotherapy to be as effective as possible the first time it’s used, and we believe this new approach should help with that.”
Scientists have known heat can kill cancer cells, but they say using heat alone can be problematic. The new system uses nano-particles coated in a cancer-killing drug, which are then heated after they are embedded into the cancer cells.
Laboratory tests showed that with a modest dose of chemotherapy-covered nano-particles, combined with heating the cells to 104 degrees, almost all of the cancer cells were killed. When scientists previously used the cancer drug by itself, 70 percent of the cancer cells were left alive, according to the study.
“I’m very excited about this delivery system,” Taratula said. “Cancer is always difficult to treat, and this should allow us to use lower levels of the toxic chemotherapeutic drugs, minimize side effects and the development of drug resistance, and still improve the efficacy of the treatment. We’re not trying to kill the cell with heat, but using it to improve the function of the drug.”
Researchers will now move on to testing the new system of fighting cancer on animals and ultimately humans before it can be used by patients. Researchers also hope the system can eventually be applied to other cancers.