Scientists at the University of Buffalo, NY, are exploring the use of PoP-liposomes or nanoballoons to get chemotherapy drugs where they need to go. They then blast the balloons with red lasers to release the drugs. They say this approach could make chemo more effective while reducing side effects.
Why an otherwise harmless red laser can pop nanoballoons is still not completely understood, but they say that it holds great potential for future cancer treatment.
About 1,000 times thinner than a human hair, nanoballoons consist of porphyrin, an organic compound, and phospholipid, a fat similar to vegetable oil. Like conventional chemotherapy, the nanoballoons would be delivered to patients intravenously. But because the nanoballoons encapsulate the anti-cancer drugs, they diminish the drugs’ interaction with healthy bodily systems.
In laboratory experiments performed with mice, they hit the nanoballoon with a red laser at the target site in the body. The laser triggered the nanoballoons to pop open and release the drugs. When the laser is turned off, the nanoballoons close, taking in proteins and molecules that might induce cancer growth. Doctors could then be able to retrieve the nanoballoons by drawing blood or taking a biopsy.
Thus, the nanotechnology could provide a “chemical snapshot” of the tumor’s environment, which otherwise is very difficult to assess.