We are iGEM Leiden 2022! Our goal is to synthesize bimetallic nanoparticles using a microbial factory. These nanoparticles have optimal properties for photothermal therapy, a promising treatment for head and neck cancer.
In 2020, more than 400 000 deaths occurred as the result of head and neck cancers (HNC) globally. This is about half of the 900 000 cases reported that year.¹ It is anticipated that these numbers will only continue to rise and reach approximately 1.08 million cases annually by 2030.¹,²,³ In the Netherlands alone, over 3000 patients are diagnosed with HNC yearly.⁴

Current treatments are highly dependent on the location in the body and severity of the disease. These treatments often require a combination of surgical resection, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy.⁵ Despite being a combination of established treatment techniques, this multidisciplinary approach often results in severe consequences such as speech impairment, loss of salivary function and damaged neurological functions.⁵,⁶
This stresses on the importance of developing a new therapeutic approach with reduced side effects. A novel and promising new treatment for HNC is photothermal therapy (PTT), which is considered as a highly precise form of treatment.⁷ PTT is based on the conversion of light energy of a near infrared light (NIR) laser to heat. This heat causes cell death in the surrounding tissue.⁸ Given that cancerous cells are more sensitive to higher temperatures, this non-invasive, thermal ablation may be effective for head and neck cancers.⁷,⁸ This technique uses metallic nanoparticles (NPs) to produce the heat required for killing cancer cells. These nanoparticles can be attached to tumour specific antibodies which allows for very specific targeting of the cancer cells.

Our aim is to create bimetallic nanoparticles, which can be used for PTT. By exciting the nanoparticles with a laser, heat is created to kill the tumour cells. We strive to produce better nanoparticles for this therapy with the bacterium Escherichia coli (E. coli). Therefore, we will transform the E. coli with four genes for improved metal reduction. We hope to create nanoparticles with an optimal shape for PTT, which could lead to an improved cancer therapy.

Global Cancer Observatory. International Agency for Research on Cancer. World Health Organization. Available at: (Accessed on July 28, 2022).
Ferlay, J., Colombet, M., Soerjomataram, I., Mathers, C., Parkin, D. M., Piñeros, M., ... & Bray, F. (2019). Estimating the global cancer incidence and mortality in 2018: GLOBOCAN sources and methods. International journal of cancer, 144(8), 1941-1953.
Bray, F., Ferlay, J., Soerjomataram, I., Siegel, R. L., Torre, L. A., & Jemal, A. (2018). Global cancer statistics 2018: GLOBOCAN estimates of incidence and mortality worldwide for 36 cancers in 185 countries. CA: a cancer journal for clinicians, 68(6), 394-424.
Nederlandse Kankerregistratie (NKR), IKNL. Obtained through, on 20-07-2022
Johnson, D. E., Burtness, B., Leemans, C. R., Lui, V. W. Y., Bauman, J. E., & Grandis, J. R. (2020). Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. Nature reviews Disease primers, 6(1), 1-22.
Brook, I. (2020). Late side effects of radiation treatment for head and neck cancer. Radiation Oncology Journal, 38(2), 84.
Khafaji, M., Zamani, M., Golizadeh, M., & Bavi, O. (2019). Inorganic nanomaterials for chemo/photothermal therapy: a promising horizon on effective cancer treatment. Biophysical reviews, 11(3), 335-352.
Nomura, S., Morimoto, Y., Tsujimoto, H., Arake, M., Harada, M., Saitoh, D., ... & Ueno, H. (2020). Highly reliable, targeted photothermal cancer therapy combined with thermal dosimetry using a near-infrared absorbent. Scientific reports, 10(1), 1-7.
Lv, Z., He, S., Wang, Y., & Zhu, X. (2021). Noble Metal Nanomaterials for NIR‐Triggered Photothermal Therapy in Cancer. Advanced Healthcare Materials, 10(6), 2001806. ISO 690
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