London: A team including an Indian-origin researcher Aravind Vijayaraghavan from the University of Manchester has used graphene to target and neutralise cancer stem cells while not harming other cells.
This new development opens up the possibility of preventing or treating a broad range of cancers using a non-toxic material.
With lead researcher professor Michael Lisanti, Vijayaraghavan has shown that graphene oxide, a modified form of graphene, acts as an anti-cancer agent that selectively targets cancer stem cells (CSCs).
"Graphene oxide is stable in water and has shown potential in biomedical applications. It can readily enter or attach to the surface of cells, making it a candidate for targeted drug delivery," Vijayaraghavan explained.
"In this work, surprisingly, it's the graphene oxide itself that has been shown to be an effective anti-cancer drug," he continued.
The team prepared a variety of graphene oxide formulations for testing against six different cancer types - breast, pancreatic, lung, brain, ovarian and prostate.
The flakes inhibited the formation of tumour sphere formation in all six types, suggesting that graphene oxide can be effective across all, or at least a large number of different cancers, by blocking processes which take place at the surface of the cells.
The researchers suggest that, used in combination with conventional cancer treatments, this may deliver a better overall clinical outcome.
"The results also show that graphene oxide is not toxic to healthy cells which suggests that this treatment is likely to have fewer side-effects if used as an anti-cancer therapy," added Federica Sotgia, one of the co-authors of the study.
The findings were reported in the journal Oncotarget.