Through the use of nanoshells and a laser, heat was created to destroy glioma tumors

Using heat, researchers from Rice University, Baylor College of Medicine, and Texas Children's Hospital have demolished human brain cancer tumors in animal models. 

Jennifer West, the Isabel C. Cameron Professor of Bioengineering at Rice University, along with Susan Blaney, deputy director of Texas Children's Hospital's Cancer Center and Baylor College of Medicine professor and vice chair for research in the department of pediatrics, and Rebekah Drezek, professor of bioengineering at Rice University, have successfully terminated glioma tumors associated with human brain cancer cells within animal models using a heat-related treatment.

Glioma is a type of tumor that is most commonly found in the brain, and is one of the most aggressive brain cancers. Glioma tumors are also hard to treat because they are invasive and cannot be operated on. Less than five percent of glioma patients live over five years with the cancer. 

The new minimally invasive heat treatment involves nanoshells, which are light-activated nanoparticles that are capable of terminating tumors using heat, and does not have harsh side effects like other traditional therapies. Gold nanoshells are smaller than red blood cells and resemble malted milk balls. They have a nonconducting core, and by changing the thickness of the shell and size of the core, these nanoshells can be "tuned" to respond to various wavelengths of light. 

To test the treatment, researchers used mice with abdominal tumors consisting of human glioma cells. These mice were injected with nanoshells, and after a 24-hour waiting period, a laser of near-infrared light was aimed at the tumor for exactly three minutes. The nanoshells react to the laser, turning its light into heat that can destroy tumors. 

This technique was used on seven different animals, and four of them remained cancer-free for 90 days after treatment while cancer returned in the remaining three. 

"The results of this study are encouraging, and we are cautiously optimistic that this process may bring us closer to finding a cure for glioma," said Blaney. "This is very exciting, especially given the poor prognosis of the disease and the importance of finding brain tumor treatment alternatives that have minimal side effects."

While the research looks promising, West noted that further work in the laboratory is required before the technique can be tested on humans. She also added that human clinical trials are at least a year away. 

This study was published in the Journal of Neuro-Oncology.

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