New research has analyzed the impact of various nanoparticles in radiotherapy treatments on glioma tumor cells. The combination with radiotherapy can increase the effectiveness of cancer treatments. The experiment was carried out in the MIRAS light line of the ALBA Synchrotron, dedicated to infrared microspectroscopy.
The use of nanotechnology has revolutionized the world of medicine. Nanosensors to diagnose, nanoparticles to administer medications or nanodevices that allow regenerating damaged tissue are changing the way we fight and treat various diseases.
The combination of radiotherapy and the use of nanoparticles is a promising strategy to increase the effectiveness of cancer treatments. High atomic number nanoparticles are used as tumor radiosensitizers; that is, tumor cells previously loaded with nanoparticles improve the effects of radiation when exposed to radiotherapy.
“It is a kind of chain effect; when the radiation comes into contact with the nanoparticles, it generates a secondary short-range radiation that causes an increase in the local dose in the tumor cells. Nevertheless, the underlying mechanisms involved in these techniques are still not clearly known,” says Immaculada Martínez-Rovira, scientist at ALBA and an expert in the development of innovative radiotherapy treatments.
An ALBA Synchrotron research team, in collaboration with the Sant Joan de Reus University Hospital, analyzed the molecular effects induced by gadolinium and gold nanoparticles combined with different types of radiation therapy in glioma cells.
Gliomas are one of the most aggressive brain tumors and difficult to cure. “With this combination therapy, higher treatment doses could be applied to the tumor, without affecting the surrounding healthy tissue,” Martínez-Rovira continues.
Using the MIRAS light line at ALBA, researchers have been able to study the biochemical changes generated by these nanoparticle-based radiation therapy treatments at the level of individual cells. “Infrared microspectroscopy based on synchrotron light is a technique that identifies the chemical composition and structure of the vibration of the molecules, so it is very helpful in biomedical studies like this. In fact, the use of infrared is crucial, since it does not cause any damage to the cells, which allows us to know what happens inside them,” says Ibraheem Yousef, a scientist responsible for MIRAS.
An important step to improve radiotherapy
The main results of the experiment have been published recently in two scientific articles and conclude that several cellular modifications caused by nanoparticles have been detected in the main biomolecules: proteins, lipids and nucleic acids. The biochemical alterations observed in this work offer vital information on the action of radiosensitization of nanoparticles, according to the type of radiotherapy, nanoparticles and cell line.
Deciphering the biological mechanisms behind these radiotherapy techniques is an important step to improve treatments.
“There is still a long way to go and more research is needed in this growing field. Deciphering the underlying biological mechanisms behind these radiotherapy techniques is an important step to improve treatments in diseases with poor prognosis,” says Martínez-Rovira.
This research is part of the NANOCANCER project, funded with European funds (No. ID 748889). This is an individual Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant, which objective is to obtain more extensive information on the mechanisms underlying the amplification of the effects of nanoparticle radiation, both in conventional therapy and in the therapy of charged particles.
Researchers from the MIRAS light line, the Sant Joan de Reus University Hospital (Institut d’Investigació Sanitària Pere Virgili), the Laboratoire d’Imagerie et Modélisation in Neurobiologie et Cancérologie (National Research Center for Scientific Research in France) and the Ionizing radiation research group of the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB) participated in this study.