Researchers Demonstrate Way to Kill Cancer Stem Cells Using Carbon Nanotubes

A team of researchers from the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center has demonstrated a method to kill breast cancer tumors, especially the tumor triggering cancer stem cells, using multiwalled carbon nanotubes.

Suzy V. Torti

Since most of the anti-tumor strategies are based on destroying cells that divide often, it is hard to destroy cancer stem cells as they do not divide frequently. In the novel technique, multiwalled carbon nanotubes are injected into tumors and then heated with a rapid, 30-second laser treatment, causing the destruction of the cancer cells.

According to lead investigator Suzy V. Torti, a Professor of biochemistry from the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, cancer stem cells are capable of migrating to other sites and begin a metastasis at someplace when they have been stimulated by some kind of trigger.

In the study, the research team used injected tumors that have breast cancer stem cells with multiwalled carbon nanotubes into a mouse model. Torti explained that nanotubes do not feature any anti-cancer properties by themselves. However, nanotubes’ exposure to a laser-generated, near-infrared radiation makes them to vibrate, thus generating heat. This technique is capable of creating a very hot local region within the tumor and preventing the growth of tumors containing breast cancer stem cells. This demonstrates that nanotube-mediated laser heat treatment is capable of eradicating the differentiated cells of the tumor as well as the cancer stem cells that accelerate growth and recurrence of tumors.

Torti concluded that killing the entire tumor, which includes the small number of cancer steam cells that are capable of metastasis, is the true way of curing a cancer.


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