Treatment Using Cancer Nanotechnology

September 5, 2011
Center for Nanosciences, Kochi

Imagine you’ve just been diagnosed with cancer. A therapeutic course has been decided and soon you’ll begin treatment.

You know the survival rates are relatively high for your type of cancer. And your doctor has assured you that because your health is otherwise good, the treatment is likely to succeed.


Still, you feel ill at ease knowing that an estimated 7.5 million people worldwide die from cancer each year. You also know that even after decades of research and development in treatment options, cancer continues to be a leading cause for death.

Your worries don’t deter your doctor’s optimism. She knows that the emerging field of Cancer Nanotechnology offers much hope to cancer patients.

It is one of the latest breakthroughs in cancer treatment.

Recently, researchers at the Amrita Centre for Nanosciences discovered an innovative nanotechnology method to treat cancer.

ZnO nanocrystals

A team led by Professor Manzoor Koyakutty and Professor Shantikumar V. Nair, combined novel nanotechnology techniques with traditional cancer research to create a new, highly effective cancer treatment method.

The technique targets cancer cells in an acidic microenvironment while sparing normal human primary cells.

The Amrita team’s discovery was described in the paper Rapid dissolution of ZnO nanocrystals in acidic cancer microenvironment leading to preferential apoptosis, and published in the August edition of Nanoscale Research Letters.

The paper garnered significant attention in the scientific community and was included in the hottest article category.

Abhilash-SasidharanEarlier doctoral student Abhilash Sasidharan, presented a paper highlighting the preferential toxicity characters of ZnO nanocrystals and tumor cells at the 2011 International Conference on Materials for Advanced Technologies, in Suntec, Singapore.

The paper was titled Preferential ZnO Nanotoxicity Against Tumor Cells.

Brief Overview of the Work

Cancer microenvironment plays a critical role in the survival, proliferation and drug resistance of solid tumors. Under clinical investigation, zinc oxide nanocrystals (ZnO NCs) were introduced into the microenvironment around normal and cancerous cells.

ZnO NCs were found to dissolve in the acidic cancer cell microenvironment, resulting in the formation of free Zn2+ ions. Elevated levels of free Zn2+ ions impaired the normal functioning of the mitochondrial machinery of cells, leading to apoptosis.

In effect, by elucidating the unique toxicity mechanism of ZnO NCs, it was shown that ZnO NCs destabilize cancer cells by utilizing the cancer cell’s own acidic microenvironment, which under normal conditions is critical for its survival.

Nanocrystals Could Kill Cancer Cells
Amrita’s Nano-Bio Research Presented in Singapore

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