Nanoparticles Could be Used to Improve Cancer Treatment, Diagnosis

Nanoparticles are finding early success in fighting the war on cancer. At Burnham Institute for Medical Research in La Jolla, CA, researchers have shown how anticancer nanoparticles can be used to improve MRI imaging of tumors and improve the dissemination of cancer drugs directly to the site of cancer.

These beneficial results are due the ability of anticancer nanoparticles to flock directly to a tumor and subsequently attract additional nanoparticles to the site. As a result, this advanced accumulation has been shown to deliver larger quantities of MRI image-enhancement agents to the point of illness so that improved diagnostics can be achieved.

In a similar fashion, nanoparticles may also be used to magnify the amount of chemotherapy drugs that actually penetrate into a tumor.

These findings are reported on the heels of Burnham lab tests that involved using nanoparticles to diagnose mice with breast cancer tumors. The team reports MRI imaging that was three times brighter than offered by conventional methods – a fact that greatly improves diagnosis potential.

In addition to their homing capabilities, nanoparticles provide a secondary benefit that helps starve a tumor of oxygen. Through tests with the mice, the team reports that 20 percent of blood vessels inside the tumor became blocked due to clotting. Such a fact could significantly diminish the growth rate of tumors.

In terms of drug administration, nanoparticles could not only increase the benefits of chemotherapy, but also diminish side effects. This is due to the fact that a higher proportion of the drugs find their way into the invading tumor as opposed to healthy tissue.

Findings reported by the Burnham Institute team were published in a recent edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.