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23. Jan. 2020

The Leibniz IWT and the University of Bremen, in cooperation with the Belgian KU Leuven and the Greek University of Ioannina, have succeeded in specifically combating cancer cells in mice. For this purpose, our research team used nano-sized copper compounds paired with an immunotherapy. After the therapy was completed, the cancer did not return.

The team of biomedical scientists, physicists, chemical engineers and process engineers found that tumors are sensitive to copper oxide nanoparticles - a compound of copper and oxygen. In a living organism, these nanoparticles dissolve very quickly and can have a cell-damaging effect. By modifying the nanoparticles with iron oxide, the researchers were able to control the dissolution process very precisely in order to eliminate cancer cells without affecting healthy cells.

The combination of the nanoparticles and immunotherapy made the tumors disappear completely, thus acting as a vaccine against lung and colon cancer - the two types of cancer that were investigated in the study. Even where conventional chemotherapy fails due to adaptation of the tumor cells, the approach with nanoparticles is successful. The authors state that the new technology can be used in about sixty percent of all cancers. Examples are lung, breast, ovarian and colon cancer.

In future, the research team hopes to focus the dissolution process even more specifically on cancer cells. If the results can be transferred to the tumour cells of cancer patients, a clinical trial will be started.

Under the title "Model-Based Nanoengineered Pharmacokinetics of Iron-Doped Copper Oxide for Nanomedical Applications", Hendrik Naatz, Bella B. Manshian, Carla Rios Luci, Vasiliki Tsikourkitoudi, Yiannis Deligiannakis, Johannes Birkenstock, Suman Pokhrel, Lutz Mädler and Stefaan J. Soenen published their results in the journal Angewandte Chemie.

Figure: Through the targeted dissolution of copper-based nanoparticles, our research team succeeded in specifically combating cancer cells without affecting healthy body cells. To do this, the team systematically exploited the different dissolution behavior of the nanoparticles in the two cell types.