Graphene Oxide Neutralizes Cancer Stem Cells

Graphene Oxide Neutralizes Cancer Stem Cells.

One of the “super materials” could find use in other areas than engineering or electronics. New research finds that graphene oxide neutralizes cancer stem cells.

Cancer stem cells, CSCs, are the “evil twin” of “normal” stem cells found in our bodies. These types of cancer cells have the ability to form many different forms of cancer. The CSCs can survive anti-cancer treatments leading to relapses, or form metastases that spread malignant cells throughout the body. Treatments that targets CSCs could help improve survival and quality of life of cancer patients. Such a treatment might be closer at hand now, according to new research from University of Manchester.

Graphene Oxide Neutralizes Cancer Stem Cells in Tissue Cultures

The findings were published in the Journal Oncotarget.

Graphene is a two-dimensional material forming a honeycomb structure or carbon atoms. The material is incredibly strong and could find use anywhere from electronics to medical applications. In this study the specific medical application of Graphene oxide could be neutralization of cancer stem cells, a much needed breakthrough.

In this study researchers prepared variety of graphene oxide formulations and tested them against six forms of cancer in tissue culture; breast, pancreatic, lung, brain, ovarian and prostate cells. They found that adding flakes of graphene oxide prevented formation of tumor spheres, a shape of CSCs differentiation. Graphene oxide flakes instead forced differentiation of the malignant cells into non-cancer stem cells.

“Naturally, any new discovery such as this needs to undergo extensive study and trials before emerging as a therapeutic. We hope that these exciting results in laboratory cell cultures can translate into an equally effective real-life option for cancer therapy.” Says Professor Michael Lisanti study leader.

The tests found that graphene oxide was non-toxic to regular cells, only affecting cancer stem cells. Graphene oxide’s anti-cancer effect was the result of inhibition of several signal pathways of CSCs (WNT, notch and Stat signaling) which prevented them from forming tumor spheres forcing differentiation into non-cancer stem cells.

Using graphene oxide flakes together with regular cancer therapy could help reduce cancer recurrence and result in better outcomes of patients affected by cancer. There is however a long way to go from neutralizing cancer cells in a tissue culture to doing the same to cancer inside a human being, but this breakthrough seems promising nonetheless.

Image credit: CORE-Materials via flickr.com, CC BY-SA 2.0