Investigators: Wei Wu, Ph.D.; Mahta Moghaddam, Ph.D.; John Stang, Ph.D.; Eugene Chung, M.D., Ph.D., J.D.
Innovation: a new class of custom-engineered nanoparticles that enhance absorption at microwave frequencies
Clinical significance: noninvasive, less painful therapy, especially beneficial for patients unable to undergo surgery
Heat has been used to treat disease since the dawn of medicine. Current techniques include thermal ablation, which employs extreme temperatures to induce rapid and localized tissue destruction, and hyperthermia, which sensitizes tumor cells to render them more vulnerable to other treatments.
Each method faces the challenge of achieving well-controlled, operator- independent heat that uniformly covers the target without “cooking” the surrounding healthy tissue. The project team set out to invent and test a microwave technology to overcome this barrier by changing the typical nanomaterial involved in thermal therapy.
While infrared radiation to heat gold nanoparticles injected into malignancies has proven successful, the method only works for tumors a few millimeters under the skin. Microwave radiation, however, can penetrate throughout the body. Unfortunately, conventional gold nanoparticles absorb microwaves less e ectively than they do infrared radiation.
The USC team’s method employs the technology behind advanced computer chips to generate arti cial nanoparticles that better absorb microwaves so the focused energy can selectively “burn” tumors while leaving healthy tissue intact. This noninvasive therapy could potentially reach cancers untouched by infrared- infused gold nanoparticles with significantly less pain to patients.