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May 03, 2017 10:01 AM EDT

Researchers from Mayo Clinic have successfully developed a new type of cancer-fighting nanoparticle. It is used to shrink breast cancer tumors while, at the same time, preventing recurrence of the disease.

The study was published in the journal "Nature Nanotechnology." The team conducted the experiment on mice and injected them with the nanoparticle.

In a press release, results showed that subjects who received the injection had a 70 to 80 percent reduction in tumor size. Moreover, the mice treated with the nanoparticles demonstrated a resistance to future tumor recurrence even when they were exposed to cancer cells a month later.

The newly-developed nanoparticle produced potent and tumor immune responses to HER2-positive breast cancers. Breast cancers with higher levels of this type of protein are known to be more aggressive and spread more quickly than those without the mutation.

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Betty Y.S. Kim, M.D., Ph.D., principal investigator of the study, said that they were astonished to find that the mice injected with the nanoparticles showed "a lasting anti-cancer effect." Kim is a neurosurgeon and neuroscientist who specializes in brain tumors at Mayo Clinic's Florida campus.

The custom-designed nanomaterials actively engage the entire immune system to kill cancer cells, unlike current cancer immunotherapies that target only a portion of it. This prompts the body to create its own memory system to minimize tumor recurrence.

The nanoparticle has been named as "Multivalent Bi-specific Nano-Bioconjugate Engager." It is coated with antibodies that target the HER2 receptor and it is coated with molecules that engage two facets of the body's immune system.

Further success of this study can lead to nanomedicines which are expected to be expanded to target different types of cancer and other human diseases. This includes neurovascular and neurodegenerative disorders. reported that nanotechnology has been found to destroy precancerous tumor cells in the livers of mice and in vitro human cells. The international study was led by the University of Missouri School of Medicine.

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