Robotic nano-surgery kills GBM cancer cells in mice’s brains
Two professors from the University of Toronto Robotics Institute and Canadian research hospital SickKids have worked closely to potentially develop a new nano-surgical treatment for patients with glioblastoma (GBM) – the most common and aggressive form of brain cancer.
Professors Yu Sun, director of the University of Toronto, and Xi Huang, senior scientist at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) tricked cancer cells into taking up carbon nanotubes, which they then shredded by spinning the tubes using magnetic force.
By applying a rotating magnetic field to the carbon nanotubes, the professors found that the mechanical stimulations inside GBM cancer cells disrupt their internal structures causing the cells to fail.
On the institute’s website it documents how the magnetically guided robotic nano-scalpels were able to precisely target and destroy GBM cancer cells.
During test phase, the treatment in mice shrunk tumour size and extended the rodents’ median life spans from roughly 22 days to about 27 days, a finding that has the researchers hopeful for a similar result in humans.
With evidence from multiple preclinical models confirming the effectiveness of their approach, the researchers are now optimising the material compositions of these magnetic carbon nanotubes, the control strategy and the treatment protocol.
Dr Xian Wang, a former post-doctoral fellow in Huang’s lab and a recent graduate of Sun’s lab, commented on the breakthrough:
“In addition to physically disrupting cellular structures, mechanically mobilised mCNTs can also modulate specific biomedical pathways. Based on this, we are now developing a combination therapy to tackle untreatable brain tumours.”
When it comes to fighting the deadly brain cancer, options are very much limited. For decades, the Institution said scientists have searched for ways to treat GBM, including conventional surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and targeted therapy, but the issue is GBM cells quickly reproduce and are notoriously difficult to eradicate by conventional surgery.
These cells also develop resistance to chemotherapy or targeted therapy, and as a result patients usually relapse after undergoing currently available treatment protocols.
While there is still much research to conduct before human trials are initiated, this innovation in mechanical nano-surgery is giving patients, families, and the medical community hope that new treatment options are on the horizon for this otherwise untreatable disease.
Elsewhere, 3D software design company Dassault Systèmes has talked about its ongoing project at CES this year, aimed at creating virtual twins of the human body.
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