The nanoparticles bind to cancer cells and kill them by slowly releasing trapped anticancer drug molecules.
The scientists combined iron nanocrystals and a biodegradable polymer to create their nanoparticles. The team encapsulated an anticancer drug, doxorubicin, inside the nanoparticles, and bound the antibody Herceptin, used to target breast cancer cells, to their surface.
The group then added the nanoparticles to a solution containing cancerous cells. They found that the nanoparticles bind to the cells and kill them by slowly releasing the trapped drug to them over a three week period.
According to the researchers, one advantage of the nanoparticles is that they can be detected using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), a non-invasive method used routinely in medicine to image soft tissues. Since the nanoparticles bind cancerous cells, this could be of future use when identifying tumours.
Haam's major research interest lies in the construction of all-in-one nanoplatforms to simultaneously diagnose and treat cancer and in confirming their efficacies at the cellular level. 'This antibody-conjugated nanoparticle is a proof of concept,' explained Haam.
Haam will now continue with this work, and aims to develop integrated systems for anticancer treatments with targeted drug delivery and real-time monitoring.