A research team at the University of Cambridge and Leeds have developed a form of ‘gold nanotubes’ which could be used to treat asbestos related cancers. The gold nanotubes - which are tiny hollow cylinders one thousandth the width of a human hair - are ‘tunable’. This enables the team to tailor the thickness and microsturcture of the nanotubes, as well as the ability to absorb paticular wavelengths of light. The treatment involves the nanotubes absorbing light, causing them to heat up and therby killing the cancerous cells during this process. The researchers demonstrate this is their recent study, which has been published in the journal ‘Small’.
The nanotubes can be developed at room temperature, which is another positive as this should make their manufacture at scale more feasible, giving it the potential to be an effective treatment. The team will be developing the work further to ensure the nanotubes will have less effect on normal tissues.
Professor Stefan Marciniak from the Cambridge Institute for Medical Research added: “The mesothelioma cells ‘eat’ the nanotubes, leaving them susceptible when we shine light on them. Laser light is able to penetrate deep into tissue without causing damage to surrounding tissue. It then gets absorbed by the nanotubes, which heat up and, we hope in the future, could be used to cause localised cancer-cell killing.”
In addition to these new findings at the two universities, The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council awarded £10 million in 2018 to the University of Cambridge to help towards developing both nanotech and engineering solutions, nanotech being the new technology used for this treatment. The money is also to fund research to find other likewise treatments to address other hard-to-treat cancers.