Nanoshells surprise scientists by destroying cancer stem cells

Nanoshells--hollow silica spheres covered with gold--were invented and are being tested in Houston. And they continue to surprise researchers with how effective they are. Researchers say they are killing breast cancer cells at a previously unreachable root level.

In a mouse study, Houston researchers say, the nanoshells delivered heat to breast cancer tumors already treated with radiation and not only shrank the tumor but also dramatically decreased the population of cancer stem cells. It's the stem cells that enable tumors to renew and grow.

"This is a study of extraordinary significance," Dr. Wendy Woodward, a radiation oncologist at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, told the Houston Chronicle. "We have worked with every imaginable drug and genetic therapy to make cancer stem cells sensitive to radiation without success until this."

The nanoshell/radiation combination, heated with near-infrared laser, is being tested in head and neck cancer trials in Houston and Dallas. The trial was not designed to check the effect on stem cells. A separate trial to measure that that effect in humans could begin in six months, Woodward told the paper.

- read the report in the Houston Chronicle