(HealthDay News) – Injecting carbon nanotubes into breast-cancer stem-cell–driven tumors followed by hyperthermia with a laser is highly effective in killing these tumors that are normally resistant to conventional hyperthermia, according to a study published in the April issue of Biomaterials.

After determining that breast cancer stem cells are highly resistant to conventional hyperthermia, Andrew R. Burke, PhD, from the Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, NC, and colleagues established breast cancer tumors consisting of stem cells in immune-deficient mice. One group was left untreated, one group was treated with a laser, one group received carbon nanotubes injected into the tumor, and the last group received carbon nanotubes injected into the tumor, followed by exposure to a laser.

The researchers found that mice in the first three groups had significant tumors and survival of only 11 to 20 percent 45 days after treatment. In contrast, mice who received carbon nanotubes and laser treatment had undetectable tumors and 100 percent survival. The treatment killed tumor cells through rapid membrane permeabilization and necrosis.

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“These data suggest that nanotube-mediated thermal treatment can simultaneously eliminate both the differentiated cells that constitute the bulk of a tumor and the breast cancer stem cells that drive tumor growth and recurrence,” Burke and colleagues write.

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