Nanoshells against cancer

Nanotechnology could be added to the anticancer armoury thanks to research by Rice University scientists. Bioengineers Rebekah Drezek and Jennifer West are exploiting nanoscale particles, invented by colleague Naomi Halas in the 1990s, to simultaneously detect and destroy cancerous cells. According to the researchers, current molecular imaging approaches only detect cancer cells but do not offer a way to destroy them at the same time. Halas' metal "nanoshells" - tiny gold-coated silica spheres - scatter light in a particular way depending on their environment. The team has tuned the nanoshells so that when they come into contact with breast cancer cells they "light up". They suggest that the technique could be extended easily to target other cancer cell types or markers for other diseases.