Scientists say they have developed an anti-cancer 'bomb' which has a similar behavior to a Trojan horse.
The bomb is able to penetrate deep into tumors where it explodes and destroys cancerous cells without harming healthy ones.
The molecular size bomb was devised by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), who have already tested it in mice with skin or lung cancer.
The researchers found that mice given the treatment lived more than three times longer than untreated rodents, and believe it could have the same effect in humans.
Professor Ram Sasisekharan, of MIT's Biological Engineering Division, says they are hopeful and optimistic, that as they translate the process into humans, the results will equate with those they have seen in animals.
The use of nanotechnology manipulates the smart bomb's materials on a molecular or atomic scale, to deliver chemotherapy drugs to destroy the tumor, and anti-angiogenesis agents to block its blood supply.
The bomb, which is like a balloon within a balloon, is injected into the bloodstream and it travels to the tumor burrowing deep inside.
At this point the outer membrane disintegrates and releases an anti-angiogenesis drug so the blood vessels feeding the tumor collapse.
The drug-packed nanocell is trapped inside the tumor, and explodes unleashing the chemotherapy drug to kill the cancerous cells.
In the process no healthy cells are destroyed, so debilitating side effects such as hair loss, vomiting, nausea and weight loss are eliminated.
Sasisekharan says by killing the supply lines, the tumor cells cannot escape and spread, and the leaching of the chemotherapy agents to the healthy cells is limited.
In the study the team found that eighty percent of the mice treated with the nanocell bomb, lived longer than 65 days, while rodents receiving the best chemotherapy lasted only 30; mice that received no treatment, died at 20 days.
The scientists say that the smart bomb was more effective against melanoma than lung cancer which demonstrates the need to change the design of the bomb to attack different types of cancer.
Judah Folkman, a cancer expert at the Children's Hospital Boston, says the technique is elegant in that it can attack a tumors vascular system and the cancer cells.
The researchers believe that this new approach to drug delivery, using existing drugs and materials could have a similar impact in humans.
They also believe it could be adapted to work for other types of cancer and illnesses and to test drug combinations.
Sasisekharan says they have been able to show, that the method, definitely decreases the toxicity of the drugs, and increases their efficacy.
The findings are reported in the science journal Nature.