Researchers at the University of Manchester in the UK — the birthplace of graphene — have used the 2D carbon material to target and neutralise cancer stem cells. Using a modified form of graphene called graphene oxide, Professor Michael Lisanti and Dr Aravind Vijayaraghavan have observed that it can act as an anti-cancer agent, inhibiting the formation of the basic tumour sphere that grows during the onset of cancer.
Instead, the stem cells went on to form non-cancerous cells. Testing graphene oxide formulations with breast, pancreatic, lung, brain, ovarian and prostate cancer cells, flakes of the material appear to blocks the surface processes through which cancer stem cells join together. The results are published in Oncotarget.
The researchers suggest that the compound could be used alongside other treatments to help encourage tumour shrinkage as well as preventing the spread of cancer and its recurrence after treatment. A particularly attractive aspect of that proposition is that the compound is non-toxic, unlike many other cancer therapeutics, suggesting it could be used with few side effects.
It's worth noting that it's not quite time to pop champagne corks, though. "Naturally, any new discovery such as this needs to undergo extensive study and trials before emerging as a therapeutic," explains Vijayaraghavan. From this stage of experiment, that could be years away. But it remains an exciting finding — and another feather to add to graphene's cap. [Oncotarget via EurekAlert]