Nanoshell therapy to be tested in lung cancer clinical trial

Cancer Treatment Centers of America will test Rice-developed nanotherapy

Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) and Nanospectra Biosciences have planned the first clinical trial for lung cancers of a new therapy that uses gold nanoshells, which were invented at Rice.

Nanospectra’s AuroLase Therapy uses a combination of lasers and nanoparticles to destroy cancer tumors with heat. Because the nanoparticles — balls of silica encased in a thin shell of gold — are absorbed by tumors and not healthy tissue, the technology can destroy tumors with minimal damage to healthy tissues.

Naomi Halas

Naomi Halas

“It’s extremely gratifying to see this technology progress from the lab into the clinic,” said nanoshell inventor Naomi Halas, Rice’s Stanley C. Moore Professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering, professor of biomedical engineering, chemistry, physics and astronomy, and director of Rice’s Laboratory for Nanophotonics. “I’m particularly pleased that this trial is being conducted by Cancer Treatment Centers of America, an organization that is committed to improving access to investigational cancer therapies.”

The nanoshells-based cancer treatment was pioneered at Rice by Halas and Jennifer West, the Isabel C. Cameron Professor of Bioengineering. Houston-based Nanospectra, which was founded in 2002, has the exclusive license from Rice to 11 U.S. patents related to nanoshells and nanoparticles.

Jennifer West

Jennifer West

Nanospectra and CTCA said the clinical trial has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration and the CTCA Institutional Review Board and will involve treatment of primary and metastatic lung tumors. The trial will be conducted by Dr. Mark Lund and colleagues in CTCA’s Interventional Pulmonology Department.

Nanospectra said AuroLase technology is also being tested in ongoing human clinical trials for metastatic head and neck tumors and for prostate cancer.

AuroLase Therapy begins with an injection of nanoshell particles into the patient’s bloodstream. After 12-24 hours — enough time for the particles to accumulate inside the tumor — an infrared laser is used to heat the particles and destroy tumor cells.

Patients seeking information about the trial may visit or call 1-866-952-4223.

About Jade Boyd

Jade Boyd is science editor and associate director of news and media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.