PHILADELPHIA They're but a tiny speck, existing in a variety of forms: particles, tubes, shells, even a soccerball-like shape. They also share a common prefix: "nano," connoting their size, a billionth of a meter or roughly 25-millionth of an inch.
Today, cancer researchers are exploring the potential of such nanostructures to exquisitely target cancer cells without harming surrounding tissue, and to image the formation of tumors long before they have a chance to become life-threatening.
While diagnostics and approved therapies are years away, several are nearing clinical studies, while a few already are being tested in patients. A press conference on "Advances in Nanotechnology for Cancer Diagnostics and Treatment" is being featured at the "Molecular Targets and Cancer Therapeutics" International Conference here.
Research highlights from this session include:
A nanotube, combined with monoclonal antibodies, is detecting cancer cells, offering a potential cost-effective way to diagnose whether cells are cancerous or not in a matter of minutes versus hour or days with current methods.
Nanoshells, filled with gold particles, are destroying tumor cells when heated with laser light. What's more, these nanoshells interact with light in specific ways, and can be "tuned" to discrete destructive wavelengths by varying the size of the core and the shell.
A nanoparticle combined with a hormone and cell-killing peptide is being tested to image, target and destroy primary and metastatic breast cancer cells.
A novel kind of "nanocomplex" consisting of a microscopic, lipid-based liposome and an antibody along with gene therapy is entering clinical studies, in an approach that scientists hope will both detect and target metastatic cancer cells for destruction.
Single Wall Carbon Nanotubes with Adsorbed Monoclonal Antibodies Detect Breast Cancer Cells (Abstract 3126)