The application of nanotechnology for addressing key problems in clinical diagnosis and therapy holds great promise in medicine and in cancer in particular. Recent works have shown significant progress in nanoparticle-mediated drug delivery and therapy. In these applications, however, the small dimensions of the nanoparticles have been used primarily for efficient delivery and specificity, while the effects mediated by the nanoparticles occur away from the particle itself, affecting the entire cell\tumour volume. We propose to study and develop, for the first time, a novel scheme for cancer therapy that treats cancer cells at nanoscale resolutions. Briefly, when noble-metal nanoparticles are illuminated with femtosecond laser pulses tuned to their plasmonic resonance, order-of-magnitude enhancements of the optical fields several nanometres away from their surfaces lead to local damage only to nearby molecules or cellular organelles. This process, which practically involves no toxic agents, is at the basis for this proposal; we will utilize techniques for targeting nanoparticles to cells, initiate and control cancer cell destruction using nanoparticles and femtosecond laser pulses, and develop technology for conducting image-guided minimally invasive cancer therapy in remote locations of the body. Preliminary results supporting the proposed scheme include nonlinear optical imaging and ablation of living cells, in vivo endoscopic imaging of cancerous tumour nodules, and computer simulations of light-nanoparticle interactions. Using state-of-the-art concepts in nanotechnology, biology, chemistry, and medicine, the proposed novel multidisciplinary research will attempt at offering a feasible and safe addition to existing forms of cancer therapy.
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