Magnetic nanoparticles engineered to capture cancer cells

A paper published in the January issue of the journal Nanomedicine could provide the foundation for a new ovarian cancer treatment option — one that would use an outside-the-body filtration device to remove a large portion of the free-floating cancer cells that often create secondary tumors.

Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have formed a startup company and are working with a medical device firm to design a prototype treatment system that would use magnetic nanoparticles engineered to capture cancer cells. Added to fluids removed from a patient’s abdomen, the magnetic nanoparticles would latch onto the free-floating cancer cells, allowing both the nanoparticles and cancer cells to be removed by magnetic filters before the fluids are returned to the patient’s body.

In mice with free-floating ovarian cancer cells, a single treatment with an early prototype of the nanoparticle-magnetic filtration system captured enough of the cancer cells that the treated mice lived nearly a third longer than untreated ones. The researchers expect multiple treatments to extend the longevity benefit, though additional research will be needed to document that — and determine the best treatment options.

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