Scientists are seen close to delivering on a years-long promise — molecule-scale nanorobots that destroy breast cancer proteins at their most basic, atomic, levels. If successful in tests on large animals like pigs, the technology may fight cancer cells throughout the body.

After experiments last year on mice with human breast cancer tumors at Sichuan University in China, scientists used DNA nanorobots to seek out breast cancer proteins, called human epidermal growth factor receptor 2s (HER2). They injected cancerous tumors with drugs that cut blood supply, shriveling and killing them. The bots destroyed proteins in tumor sites within 48 hours without creating clots in other parts of the body.

  • The DNA robot has been under development over the past five years, and the Sichuan University scientists hope to begin human trials pending more successful outcomes.
  • Twenty percent of breast cancers make abnormally high levels of the HER2 protein, according to Minnesota’s Mayo Clinic.
  • The U.S. FDA has approved 50 nanoparticle drugs for use in clinical practice, as of late 2017, according to a document posted on the National Institutes of Health’s website; the global nanotechnology industry is expected to grow 17% annually through 2024, according to a 2018 Research and Markets report.
  • Karma Take: While nanorobots are not yet ready to be used on humans, the research has shown that investing in these devices can potentially help replace other methods, like chemotherapy for breast cancer patients.