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August 1st, 2008
That provides a critical mass for the next phase of treatment. Because of their design, nanoshells are incredibly efficient at absorbing near-infrared light, which isn't visible and normally passes harmlessly through the body.
But when shined over a tumor laden with nanoshells, the tiny devices absorb the energy, heat up and fry the tumor.
"The therapeutic potential has always been amazing," said Jennifer West, a Rice bioengineer who initially worked with Halas to develop nanoshells as a cancer therapy. "In all of the animal studies, from mice through dogs, we've seen tremendously high rates of tumor regression."
The next step, of course, is the biggest one. Of drugs that begin human clinical trials, only 11 percent actually receive FDA approval. The odds are also long for devices.
In the first trials, nanoshells will be used to target head and neck cancers. But there's a reasonable chance they can be used to treat a wide variety of tumors, Halas said.
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