In cancer, one of the main causes of death is metastasis; however, the treatments available are present are ineffective. Metastasis refers to the spread of cancer cells throughout the body. During this, the cancer cells may either penetrate through the lymph nodes’ walls, enter the adjacent blood vessels, or invade neighboring healthy tissue. There is no end to hope, isn’t it? A new research might have found an approach to control metastasis by stopping the cancer cells’ migration. Inhibiting the cells from migrating may ultimately stop metastasis.
A set of projections is what helps the cancer cells to move and the researchers have managed to cut off these projections successfully through a special method. The long, slender protrusions that assist the movement of cancer cells are known as filopodia, which are an extension of a group of “broad, sheet-like” fibers known as lamellipodia—that are found around the cell’s edges. Principally, filopodia and lamellipodia are small legs that aid the movement of healthy cells within the tissue. However, in cancerous cells, filopodia and lamellipodia are produced in excess.
In this study, the Professor El-Sayed and team used nanorods composed of gold nanoparticles so as to block these tiny legs. Researchers, with the assistance of nanotechnology, are capable of decreasing the size of specific constituents to a nanoscale, where they display new physical and chemical properties. The nanorods were introduced locally, which were concealed with a covering of molecules, RGD peptides. These molecules enabled the nanorods to get attached to a specific protein type, integrin.
The binding of integrin to the targeted nanorods blocks its function and thus keeps it from instructing the cytoskeleton to overproduce filopodia and lamellipodia. The tests showed that merely attaching the nanorods to the protein delayed cancer cells’ migration. Significantly, healthy cells were avoided by this technique, thus making it a treatment approach that can cause less damage to patients who undertake toxic chemotherapy treatment.
In the later experimental stage, the gold nanoparticles were heated by the team with a laser of near-infrared light. This efficiently inhibited the malignant cells’ migration. The researcher explained, cells do not absorb the light but gold nanorods do, and as a consequence, the heat up and partially melt the cancer cells they are attached to, damaging filopodia and lamellipodia.
The researchers are now looking forward to treat other cancers, such as breast, head & neck, and skin cancer, with direct, local nanorod injections alongside low-power near-infrared laser.