Nanoparticles for image-guided thermo-brachytherapy

Looking at statistics, they are a blunt reminder that curing cancer is one of the biggest challenges the medical research of our time has to face. Cancer was responsible for an estimate of 9.6 million deaths in 2018 only, i.e. globally 1 in 6 deaths being due to cancer.

Although an aggressive disease, nowadays, there are several cancer cases diagnosed early enough to allow new non-invasive treatments, thus avoiding surgery, chemotherapy and extended radiotherapy, which are common cancer therapies causing multiple side effects.

In this direction, our project aims to develop a novel treatment for early diagnosed breast cancer, that can be realized in a single, minimally invasive, real-time image-guided procedure with tremendous life comfort and cosmetic advantages for cancer patients.

The success of the treatment is expected to be realized through the synergistic effect of thermal ablation and brachytherapy applied simultaneously, as well as the ability to localize the heat and respectively, radiation sources inside the tumour in order to prevent any damage to the surrounding healthy tissues. For this purpose, we propose the development of novel hybrid bimetallic nanoparticles. The hybrid nanoparticles (103Pd-SPIO NP) contain a 103Pd-seed as the radioactive source, which enables the radiation dose necessary for brachytherapy and an iron oxide shell, which next to real time visualization by MRI during the treatment, will also be responsible for heating.

The treatment proposed will be conducted by implanting the hybrid nanoparticles, incorporated in a gel-like matrix, through direct injection in the tumour, while the patient is under light sedation. The nanoparticles are expected to diffuse inside the tumour due to their small sizes (< 50 nm), and their distribution can be visualized in real time by MRI.

Once the nanoparticles are inside the tumour, the cancer cells will undergo simultaneous thermal ablation and brachytherapy by exposing the hybrid nanostructures to a high-power, low frequency alternating magnetic field. Heating the nanoparticles will lead to an increase in temperature at the tumour site, which ensures killing the majority of the tumour cells.  The remaining cancer cells will be irradiated locally, and the tumour will undergo shrinkage until complete eradication.