Fighting Cancer Where it Starts

"We are trying to use existing therapies like chemotherapy but in a new way"

A magnetic nanoparticle developed by scientists at NYU Abu Dhabi could change the future of how drug delivery systems are used in the treatment of cancer.

Nanoparticles are tiny microscopic particles that have diverse applications in various fields such as physics, chemistry, optics, and medical science while drug delivery systems are a breakthrough approach in biomedical engineering that enables doctors to direct highly potent drugs to specific disease-infected sites in the human body.

Farah Benyettou, research scientist, collaborated with Ali Trabolsi, NYUAD assistant professor of chemistry, to create a magnetic nanoparticle that can carry the chemotherapy drug Doxorubicin and can be guided straight to tumor sites.

Benyettou’s magnetic iron-oxide nanoparticles act like special vehicles that ferry the drug straight to the tumor and can be directed using magnets. When exposed to alternating magnetic fields, they absorb the energy and increase the temperature of the tumor thereby killing it using a combination of chemotherapy and thermal therapy.

The nanoparticles, which can even be observed using an MRI, are also designed to release drugs only in a particular environment — the more acidic environment of tumor cells — which means they are harmless to healthy cells and are also eliminated naturally from the body once their job is done. The researchers also employed a structure where several nanoparticles cluster together to create a porous ‘super’ nanoparticle that can ferry more medicine to the tumor site.