Tracing the spread of the diseaseHere, the tool would work combined with a radioactive ‘tracer’ compound called copper-64 that’s usually swallowed, inhaled or injected, and which detects cancerous cells and tracks the path back to their source. The world-renowned science and technology institute said the nanoparticle could in principle be used to detect cancer anywhere in the body – including tumours that have spread from their primary location, a process known as ‘metastasis’. Professor Sangeeta Bhatia, the leader of the MIT project, saw it as especially suited for evaluating patient response to treatment and for long-term monitoring of recurrent tumours, particularly for colon cancer, after the study showed the nanoparticle traced the spread of metastatic tumours to the lung and the liver in mice.
A breakthrough for cancer diagnosticsThe development of a tool for detecting cancer that could be used as part of a simple urine test marks a breakthrough in cancer diagnosis. Oncologists typically use imaging techniques like CT scans, mammograms, and colonoscopy to detect the disease. According to MIT, the study – which has been published in the journal Nature Materials – proved the dual success of the nanoparticles using mice.
The significance of nanoparticles in medicine has grown in recent years as their miniature properties have been harnessed for improving contrast in imaging and delivering drugs and genes directly into tumours.
By virtue of their size, nanoparticles behave differently to bigger materials in terms of how they absorb energy and react with chemicals.
This means they have often played a crucial role in scientific discoveries that could not have been made without their use.