Gold nanoshells are first introduced into the body through an injection.
The gold nanoshells travel through blood stream until they reach the cancer. The nanoshells slip into the cancer because of the Enhanced permeation and retention effect (EPR). This is the phenomenon in which the additional blood vessels created to feed the cancer are actually more porous than normal blood vessels. Because of this, nanoshells too large to fit through normal blood vessels can enter the tumor's blood vessels. The ligand coating on the nanoshells also helps the nanoshell to specifically target cancer cells.
Once nanoshells are lodged in the cancer, NIR light is shone on the location of the cancer. The gold nanoshells heat up, destroying the cancerous cells. Because ligands target only the cancer cells, the normal pancreatic cells are left unharmed.