The mechanical resistance of tumors and collateral damage of standard treatments often hinder efforts to defeat cancers. However, a team of researchers from the CNRS, the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM), Paris Descartes University, and Paris Diderot University has successfully softened malignant tumors by heating them. This method, called nanohyperthermia, makes the tumors more vulnerable to therapeutic agents. First, carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are injected directly into the tumors. Then, laser irradiation activates the nanotubes, while the surrounding healthy tissue remains intact. The team’s work was published online on January 1, 2017 in Theranostics. The open-access article is titled “Tumor Stiffening, a Key Determinant of Tumor Progression, Is Reversed by Nanomaterial-Induced Photothermal Therapy.” Researchers are increasingly turning their attention to the mechanical factors affecting tumor development. Tumors stiffen due to the abnormal organization of the collagen fibers and extracellular matrix (ECM) that hold cells from the same tissue together. In addition to being a marker of malignancy, such stiffening may help cancer cells proliferate and metastasize. Furthermore, the ECM forms a physical barrier that limits tumor penetration by therapeutic agents. Various treatments attempt to disrupt the structure of tumors but are double-edged swords: as ECM is common to tumors and healthy organs, degrading it does as much harm as good. Yet the research team found a way around this problem for mouse tumors. After being directly injected into the tumors, CNTs were activated with near-infrared light. The laser only acts on areas of CNT concentration, heating the CNTs up.
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