A team of researchers working in Stanford recently discovered that iron nanoparticles used in anemia treatment also hold ability to pull off ability of immune cells to attack tumor cell. Iron nanoparticles can always be used for activating the immune system for attacking the cencer cells. The nanoparticles are currently available commercially as injectable iron supplements ferumoxytol. These have been approved for use by the FDA in iron deficiency anemia treatment.
The study discovered that the ferumoxytol motivates the immune cells to destroys cancer cells which means nanoparticles can always sync with pre-existing cancer treatment. Heike Daldrup-Link, MD, the associate professor of radiology and senior author of this paper at Schhol of Medicine says, “It was really surprising to us that the nanoparticles activated macrophages so that they started to attack cancer cells in mice. We think this concept should hold in human patients, too."
The team conducted a study over mice groups, one of them was loaded with chemo, another was a control group that received nanomaterials without any chemo while a third group received none. The team made some unexpected observation that tumor growth in animals that received nanoparticles was suppressed better than the ones that received other controls.
The results of the study suggest numerous possible applications for humans. For example, patients often need chemotherapy after removal of metastatic tumor removals but need to wait unless they recover from surgery and go through horrible side-effects of chemotherapy. The best part about iron nanoparticles is that these lack toxic side-effects of chemotherapy which suggests these are suitable for patients with surgery issues. Daldrup-LInk further adds, “We think this could bridge the time when the patient is quite sick after surgery, and help keep the cancer from spreading until they are able to receive chemotherapy. If there are some tumor cells left after surgery, the situation that cancer surgeons call positive margins, we think it might work to inject iron nanoparticles there, and the smaller tumor seeds could potentially be taken care of by our immune system.”