New Take on Cancer

Vardan Sawhney
2 min readMay 11, 2020

A major breakthrough for nanomedicine has researchers developing very small autonomous robots that can potentially shrink cancer tumours by reducing their blood supply.

Scientists from Arizona State University and China’s National Centre for Nanoscience and Technology have programmed these small robots to carry a blood-clotting enzyme (thrombin) to the tumour’s associated blood vessels using DNA origami. Once these nanobots reach the surface of the tumour’s vessels, thrombin is sent to the heart of the blood supply.

The study, published in Nature Biotechnology, the nanobots made a difference within 24 hours of treatment. Two days post treatment, the researchers found evidence of advanced thrombosis and within three days found thrombi in all tumour vessels.

This parallels chemotherapy which takes a much more aggressive and ineffective approach to fighting cancer, the nanobots are much more localized and are less invasive because of DNA Aptamer.

There is somewhat of a homing beacon that is found on the bot’s surface leading it towards nucleolin, a protein generated in large amounts of tumour endothelial cells. Since these are only found on harmful cells, the nanobots ignore all the healthy cells.

Computational model of DNA Aptamer

This is very important, because thrombin if delivered elsewhere has the potential to become very deadly, for example, having the potential to cause strokes if released in the brain.

As of right now, tests have been limited to mice and miniature pigs, the bots proved to be safe and effective at shrinking tumours. Now researchers are looking for clinical partners to help them take their technology to another level.

Soon enough, we may have a more revolutionary way of dealing with cancer that is more effective and healthier for patients.