Medical

Nanoparticles detect and track cancer months before traditional imaging techniques

Human breast cancer cells in a mouse model were “chased” with novel rare earth nanoparticles injected intravenously
Human breast cancer cells in a mouse model were “chased” with novel rare earth nanoparticles injected intravenously
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Human breast cancer cells in a mouse model were “chased” with novel rare earth nanoparticles injected intravenously
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Human breast cancer cells in a mouse model were “chased” with novel rare earth nanoparticles injected intravenously

A team from Rutgers University has devised a ground-breaking new method for detecting tiny cancerous tumors. Using light-emitting nanoparticles the technique can accurately identify and track early-stage tumors months before they grow large enough to be detectable by conventional imaging methods.

One of the major downsides of current cancer diagnosis technologies is that a tumor can often grow to a damaging size by the time imaging methods detect it. Catching a cancer when it metastasizes can also be tricky as doctors generally won't know the disease has spread until it's too late.

This new detection method involves injecting a subject with nanoparticles that emit short-wave infrared light. These nanoparticles travel through the bloodstream and are designed to stick to specific cancer cells. In early mouse experiments the particles accurately identified and tracked breast cancer cells as they spread to several other locations in the animal's body.

"We've always had this dream that we can track the progression of cancer in real time, and that's what we've done here," says corresponding author of the study Prabhas V. Moghe. "We've tracked the disease in its very incipient stages."

The new imaging technology excitingly promises a kind of real-time tracking of cancer cells and the researchers suggest this method can be used to detect most types of cancer.

"Cancer cells can lodge in different niches in the body, and the probe follows the spreading cells wherever they go," says corresponding author Vidya Ganapathy. "You can treat the tumors intelligently because now you know the address of the cancer."

Perhaps most inspiring is the suggestion this technology could be available in less than five years, allowing doctors an unprecedented ability to catch and track cancers more effectively than ever before.

"The Achilles' heel of surgical management for cancer is the presence of micro metastases," explains Steven K. Libutti, director of Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey. "This is also a problem for proper staging or treatment planning. The nanoprobes described in this paper will go a long way to solving these problems."

The study was published in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering.

Source: Rutgers University

4 comments
Brian M
If this really works, then it seems to be missing the most important trick! If theses nano-particles target and stick just to the specific cancer cells, then they are possibly the elusive 'magic' bullet. Give them a payload that will destroy the cell.
MartinVoelker
One of the biggest issues in cancer diagnoses are false positives. While the article here claims accuracy I'd be very surprised if that accuracy were extremely high.
OwkayeGo
I doubt that this technique will ever be used to detect early cancers. It will be so over-priced that no one (meaning insurance companies in the USA) will pay for it to be used for this purpose. On the other hand, Brian M is correct that it could very well be used to treat cancers once they are found via cheaper means.
guzmanchinky
At 47, all of these articles are very prescient to me...