One Year Ago

Nanoshells shined in petri dishes. Then came success in mice.

While drug companies cast about for a better pill to treat cancer, Naomi Halas has turned to nanotechnology. The Rice University engineer is the inventor of the “nanoshell,” a gold-coated globe of silica about 1/20 the size of a red blood cell that attaches itself to tumors. When we first reported on nanoshells [see “Engineers Light Up Cancer Research,” October 2003], Halas had just shown, in petri dishes, that flashes of near-infrared light burn the shells and cancerous tissue without destroying healthy cells. Now, just under a year later, Halas says the nanoshells work just as effectively in rodents. Tumorous mice injected with nanoshells and then exposed to infrared light became cancer-free within 10 days, and stayed that way after treatment. Good news for rodents, but will it work in humans? We’ll find out next year when Halas begins clinical trials.