Many solid tumors are considered inoperable because they adhere to vital structures or the surgery would cause irreversible damages to the patients. In order to prevent the tumor growth or provide complete tumor resolution without surgery, chemotherapy and radiation are currently in clinical practice. Since these tumors are already locally advanced or have begun to metastasize, the outlook today for these cancer patients is bleak and survival rate remains very low.
Yaowu Hao, an associate professor in the Materials Science and Engineering Department at The University of Texas at Arlington, has earned a three-year, $477,000 R15 grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop radiotherapeutic nanoseeds that will work from inside inoperable solid tumors and cause less damage to healthy cells.
One way of applying the radiation is to surgically implant a 2-millimeter-by-5-millimeter “Seed” with therapeutic isotopes into the tumor. Because the nanoseeds are injectable, they can be used in tumors in other areas of the body, such as the brain, lungs and liver. “We chose gold because it is inert and biocompatible. The nanoseed is about 100 nanometers in size, so it is small enough to be injected in solution but large enough that it will not spread out of the tumor.” This type of radiation therapy is highly effective in attacking a tumor, but is also safer for the surrounding tissue because the radiation is contained within the tumor.