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Nanotechnology Animations: Nanoshells

NanoshellsReference: Jennifer West, Rice University


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Nanoshells

Nanoshells have a core of silica and a metallic outer layer. These nanoshells can be injected safely, as demonstrated in animal models.

Because of their size, nanoshells will preferentially concentrate in cancer lesion sites. This physical selectivity occurs through a phenomenon called enhanced permeation retention (EPR).

Scientists can further decorate the nanoshells to carry molecular conjugates to the antigens that are expressed on the cancer cells themselves or in the tumor microenvironment. This second degree of specificity preferentially links the nanoshells to the tumor and not to neighboring healthy cells.

As shown in this example, scientists can then externally supply energy to these cells. The specific properties associated with nanoshells allow for the absorption of this directed energy, creating an intense heat that selectively kills the tumor cells. The external energy can be mechanical, radio frequency, optical - the therapeutic action is the same.

The result is greater efficacy of the therapeutic treatment and a significantly reduced set of side effects.