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MIT develops nanoparticles to battle cancer

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- On a quest to modernize cancer treatment and diagnosis, an MIT professor and her colleagues have created new nanoparticles that mimic blood platelets. The team wants to use these new multifunctional particles to carry out different medical missions inside the body, from imaging to drug delivery.

After years of research, "we still treat cancer with surgery, radiation and chemotherapy," said Sangeeta Bhatia, an associate professor in MIT's Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology. "People are now starting to think more in terms of 'Fantastic Voyage,' that sci-fi movie where they miniaturized a surgical team and injected it into someone."

The National Cancer Institute has recognized the value of Bhatia's work and has awarded her a grant to continue this line of research. Bhatia and collaborators Michael J. Sailor, chemist and materials scientist at the University of California at San Diego, and Erkki Ruoslahti, tumor biologist at the Burnham Institute for Medical Research, will receive $4.3 million in funding over five years.

The grant will allow the team to continue work on promising nanoparticle solutions that, while not quite miniature surgical teams, do have the potential to help identify tumors and deliver chemotherapy locally.

One solution already under way involves using nanoparticles for cancer imaging. By slipping through tiny gaps that exist in fast-growing tumor blood vessels and then sticking together, the particles create masses with enough of a magnetic signal to be detectable by a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine. "This might allow for noninvasive imaging of fast-growing cancer 'hot spots' in tumors," said Bhatia. The team will continue this research by testing the imaging capabilities in animal models.

Another solution, described in the Jan. 16 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academ
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Contact: Elizabeth Thomson
thomson@mit.edu
617-258-5402
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
31-Jan-2007


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