Lymphoma is a type of blood cancer in which the body's disease-fighting lymphocytes begin to behave abnormally and form tumors. Most types of lymphoma can be successfully treated with chemotherapy, but some aggressive forms can be fatal.
Now, Northwestern University researchers have found a new way to destroy lymphomas without drugs. They feed the tumor cells nanoparticles designed to look just like their favorite food, the natural cholesterol called HDL. Since the cancerous cells cannot thrive on the synthetic HDL, they eventually starve to death.
The nanoparticles, developed by Dr. C. Shad Thaxton, mimic natural HDL particles, but are created around a five-nanometer speck of gold. When they are picked up by a cancerous cell, their spongy surface sucks out its cholesterol, and the gold core prevents the lymphoma from absorbing more cholesterol.
The golden nanoparticles killed B-cell lymphoma, the most common form of the disease, in the human cells in the lab, and prevented tumor growth in mice.
Thaxton's collaborator, Dr. Leo Gordon, says the therapy "has the potential to become a non-toxic treatment for B-cell lymphoma."
Their study is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.