Magnetic-nanoparticle-mediated intracellular hyperthermia has the potential to achieve localized tumor heating without any side effects. The technique consists of targeting magnetic nanoparticles to tumor tissue followed by application of an external alternating magnetic field that induces heat through Néel relaxation loss of the magnetic nanoparticles. The temperature in tumor tissue is increased to above 43°C, which causes necrosis of cancer cells, but does not damage surrounding normal tissue. Among magnetic nanoparticles available, magnetite has been extensively studied. Recent years have seen remarkable advances in magnetite-nanoparticle-mediated hyperthermia; both functional magnetite nanoparticles and alternating-magnetic-field generators have been developed. In addition to the expected tumor cell death, hyperthermia treatment has also induced unexpected biological responses, such as tumor-specific immune responses as a result of heat-shock protein expression. These results suggest that hyperthermia is able to kill not only local tumors exposed to heat treatment, but also tumors at distant sites, including metastatic cancer cells. Currently, several research centers have begun clinical trials with promising results, suggesting that the time may have come for clinical applications. This review describes recent advances in magnetite nanoparticle-mediated hyperthermia.
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