Image: Human breast cancer cell tagged with quantum dots
Cancer Nanomedicine is developing to cover a wide range of applications from imaging, diagnosing to treating cancers with targeted therapies. Cancer Nanomedicine works on the theory that nanometer sized particles of gold, nanomicelles and quantum dots (QDs) have unique functional properties that differ from other available discrete molecules or bulk materials. These nanomaterials when conjugated with other ligands such as monoclonal antibodies, peptides or small molecules can be used to target tumor cells and microenvironment with incredibly high specificity and affinity. Nanoparticles inherently posses a large surface area. Making them ideal for attaching multiple ligands to to create a single nanoparticle that could be used for both tumor imaging and treatment.
There are several barriers that must be overcome before these new methods can be applied clinically:
Firstly the problem of nanoparticle surface opsonisation must be overcome. Nanoparticle surface opsonisation is the process of attaching proteins and other molecules to the surface of the nanoparticle. At present this process is not efficient enough with surface ‘fouling’ occurring where nonspecific proteins are attaching to the nanoparticles in place of the desired proteins.
Secondly the problem of nanoparticle tissue retention, targeting and tumor penetration must be addressed. These are all processes that are central to manufacturing an effective diagnostic tool and treatment method using nanoparticles.
Finally and very importantly the issue of nonbiodegradable nanomaterials containing toxic elements must be investigated. Without an idea of the effects that these particles may have on tissue it would be inconceivable to clinically trial these treatments.
New innovative techniques need to be developed to overcome these stumbling blocks on the road to creating a nanoparticle treatment for Cancer.
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