Nanotechnology offering cancer treatment, diagnosis and surgery solutions
A team of Australian and international researchers have discovered how the use of nanomedicine could make it easier to detect cancer, deliver drugs to tumours and arm surgeons with greater accuracy when operating.
- Nanocrystals can help diagnosis cancer through blood, urine or saliva
- Can be used for clearer imaging in surgery allowing greater accuracy
- Nanocrystal can be filled with drug to target treatments
The use of nanocrystals offers clearer images of cancer cells, which helps to improve surgical procedures, but the targeted approach can also speed up the recovery time for patients.
A benefit of the technology is that a patient can swallow a magnetised nanocrystal, a tiny microscopic ball that can be filled with a drug, and a magnetic resonance scanner can then be used to direct the nanocrystals to a tumour.
After that an energy source, such as an ultrasound, can be used to break open the nanocrystal to release the drug so it can treat the cancer.
Unlike conventional chemotherapy, which spreads widely through the body and damages healthy parts, ingesting the nanocrystal reduces leaching of the drug throughout the body and reduces the side effects.
When a person is diagnosed with cancer, a biopsy of a cell or tissue is needed to detect the disease.
Less invasive cancer detection
The hope behind this research is that the highly sensitive nanotechnology could be applied to diagnose cancer through blood, urine or saliva - a much less painful and invasive procedure for the patient.
There's really three levels and three big opportunities behind this new exciting technology.Professor Dayong Jin
Professor Dayong Jin from the University of Technology in Sydney said one significant benefit of nanotechnology was the ability to produce clearer imaging in surgery to allow greater accuracy on the operating table.
At present surgeons operating on patients tend to cut out more than just the tumour, to prevent the recurrence of cancer.
"But at the same time, once you cut more normal cells, you significantly affect the patient's immune system," Professor Jin said.
Nanocrystals offer targeted treatment for patients
This precise technology also goes one step further, not only could it allow for less invasive cancer screening and higher resolution images of tumours, it could drive more targeted treatments.
"You can use it as a carrier to carry molecular drugs, more specifically deliver to the diseased site for more targeted personal treatment," Professor Jin said.
"So there's really three levels and three big opportunities behind this new exciting technology."
Professor Jin described the use of bodily fluids to carry the molecular drugs as a liquid gold opportunity.
"There's no precise technology available to precisely detect the residual cancer cell or the cancer cell signal from the body fluid and this technology offers a lot of higher sensitivity to recognise a trace amount of cancer cell," he said.
"We call it a needle in a haystack problem."
Professor Jin said the nanocrystals were brighter and tailored with multiple functions for medical imaging.
"Normally for biomedical imaging, for example, if we wanted to diagnose, we want to see clearly where the tumour is, which is really the hardest challenge for surgeons because you can't give a clear boundary between the normal cell and the tumour cell," he said.
"And this new crystal gives multiple functions which allows it to use multiple imaging modality to locate this tumour cell."
The researchers - including a student from Macquarie University, the National University of Singapore and the University of Wollongong - now plan to work with medical teams to roll out the technology on a wider scale.
The team's paper has been published in the Journal Nature Communications.
SOurce: ABC News