Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Cancer Treatments Progressing With Nanogold

The frontier for smart tumour treatments using nanotechnology are for organs like the lungs that move when more conventional treatment methods are used (like surgery.) Markers, of which gold is often a component, aim to pinpoint the tumors and soften them up for radiation, heat or chemical therapy. A presentation at the 52nd meeting of the American Association of Physicists in Medicine will explain how nanocoated gold bullets help improve radiation therapy.
Image-guided radiation therapy targets tumors in organs that tend to move during treatment, such as the prostate gland or the lungs, as well as tumors near vital organs. Often, inert markers are implanted into the body to help radiation oncologists pinpoint the cancerous tissue.

A group of researchers wants to draft these markers to deliver drugs that will combat cancer and make the tumor more sensitive to radiation. The drugs can be tailored to different tumor types, the researchers say.

"Right now, these markers are just passive implants that are inserted into the tumor," says Srinivas Sridhar, a physics professor at Northeastern University and director of the university's Electronic Materials Research Institute. "We're making them active and smart using nanotechnology," he said.

The challenge is designing a system that will work over an extended period of time and target the entire tumor without affecting healthy tissue. The team has already developed a nanoscale polymer coating containing anti-cancer drugs for gold fiducials, which are commonly used markers.

Now, the researchers report they can precisely tailor drug dosage and rate of release in laboratory tests lasting up to three months. The nanoporous morphology of the polymer coatings enabled the controlled release of molecules and nanoparticles. The results also help refine the team's models of drug release kinetics.

The group includes collaborators Mike Makrigiorgos and Robert Cormack from Brigham & Women's Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
For those who are interested, an abstract can be found here (.pdf file.)

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