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Conventional therapies, such as radiotherapy and chemotherapy, exhibit several limitations in clinical practice. For instance, chemotherapy distributes cancer therapeutic agents in the human body non-specifically and toxic both cancerous and normal cells, inducing excessive toxicities to normal cells, tissues and organs. Nowadays, nanoparticles offer great benefits in therapies such as hyperthermia and photodynamic therapy. Their advantages include preventing undesired off-target and side effects, improving intracellular penetration and allowing specific cancer targeting.
Hyperthermia therapy treats tumors through burning down the disease area using high temperature. The high temperatures damage or kill cancer cells, whilst a minimal injury to normal tissues is caused. The current hyperthermia therapy is mainly applied to makes cancer cells more fragile and sensitive to radiation or therapeutic agents. Therefore, hyperthermia therapy is often used along with other therapies, such as radiotherapy, immunotherapy or chemotherapy.
High temperatures are generated at disease areas by various methods in local hyperthermia therapy. The external method utilizes a machine outside the body to generates high energy waves at the tumor. Whilst, internal approach puts a needle or probe into the tumor and releases energy to heat the tissue around it.
Although Hyperthermia therapy is a promising approach to improve cancer treatment, it is largely an experimental technique at this time. Some researchers have been done to better understand and improve this technique. For example, the use of nanoparticles and the induction heating of magnetic materials that are implanted into tumors are some new types of hyperthermia that are under study.
Figure 1. Mechanism of Hyperthermia therapy process
Photodynamic Therapy (PDT)
Photodynamic therapy (PDT) kill cancer cells through generating reactive oxygen species (ROS) modulators. Photosensitive compounds (or photosensitizers) is directly used on the skin or injected into the bloodstream. In this “see-and-treat” approach, the agents can remain heavily concentrated in cancer cells. Triggering by a laser light of appropriate wavelength, the photosensitizers produce ROS within the tumor, causing selective destruction of the cancer cells.
Apart from directly killing cancer cells, the photosensitizer can damage tumor blood vessels, thereby preventing cancer from receiving necessary nutrients. PDT may also activate the immune system to attack the tumor cells. The success of PDT relies on the development of photosensitizers and tumor-avid molecules that are preferentially retained in tumor cells. Besides, PDT is often used with other therapies, such as surgery, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy.
PDT has a lot of advantages in treating certain kinds of cancers. It can be targeted very precisely and has no long-term side effects when used properly. Besides, PDT can be repeated many times at the same site and often costs less than other cancer treatments. However, there are still some limitations when using PDT in clinical trials, such as PDT can only treat areas where light can reach and sometimes the drugs used for PDT leave people very sensitive to light.
Figure 2. Mechanism of Photodynamic therapy process