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Plant-based nanoparticles enhance promising new cancer treatment technology


Oral cancer squamous cell

March 18, 2014 –  

By Maren Roman
Irreversible electroporation (IRE), a promising new technique for removing cancerous tumors, uses microsecond electrical pulses to damage the cell membranes of tumor cells past the point of recovery. While IRE affects tumor cells, it does not cause damage to nearby blood vessels and nerves. This selectivity enables the treatment of tumors that are considered surgically inoperable because of their close proximity to these sensitive structures. Among the main challenges associated with IRE are, no. 1, that it is not able to distinguish between cancerous and healthy cells within the treatment volume and therefore causes some loss of healthy tissue and, no. 2, that it is not able to treat tumor extensions beyond the margin of the treatment volume.

Dr. Maren Roman’s research group in the Department of Sustainable Biomaterials is investigating potential biomedical applications of plant-based nanoparticles, specifically cellulose nanocrystals. In a recent collaboration with Drs. Rafael Davalos and Yong Woo Lee of the School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences, Dr. Roman has shown that a carefully timed treatment of cancer cells with cancer-targeted cellulose nanocrystals prior to the application of the electric pulses augments the cytotoxic effect and selectivity of the IRE treatment. The research findings signify that eradication of a tumor after treatment with cancer-targeted cellulose nanocrystals requires a lower electric field strength and results in less damage to the healthy tissue in the treatment volume. By further modifying the cancer-targeted cellulose nanocrystals with chemotherapeutic drugs, it is possible to simultaneously target and treat extensions of the tumor. The study will appear shortly under the title “Folate conjugated cellulose nanocrystals potentiate irreversible electroporation-induced cytotoxicity for the selective treatment of cancer cells” in the journal Technology in Cancer Research & Treatment.



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