This research was led by Steven A. Curley, of the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, and Lon Wilson, of Rice University. The investigators published their results in the journal Nanomedicine.
Biocompatible gold nanoparticles are ideal vehicles for delivering heat to tumors because they are non-toxic, stable, and can be coated with a variety of molecules to target them to tumors. Unlike conventional anticancer agents, gold nanoparticles are harmless unless first activated by an energy source, such as a near-infrared light delivered by a laser. In fact, laser-activated gold nanoparticles are being tested in human clinical trials for the treatment of head and neck cancer. Radio waves, however, have a potential advantage over laser energy because radio waves do not interact with biological tissues and thus can penetrate more deeply within the body than can laser light.
One of the major obstacles to using radiofrequency-activated gold nanoparticles to treat cancer is their tendency to clump together, which reduces their ability to absorb energy and convert it to heat.