The second nanotechnology technical brief that is from the DEW Point Resource Center gives a summary of the use of nanotechnology in cancer therapy and the step that need to be taken to ensure that this technology helps in treatment of cancer. There will be suggestions for further reading.
Cancer is one of the most dreaded diseases that are affecting many people in the world. The most vulnerable are the poor people who cannot afford cancer therapy. The cost of undergoing cancer treatment is high such that it cannot be afforded by the poor people in the society. Cancer deaths are estimated to be 1 in every four deaths. In the United States alone, there are an estimated 1,638,910 cases of new cancer cases and 577,190 deaths expected to occur in the year 2012 alone. The process of detecting and undertaking cancer therapy is the cause of delays and inefficiencies in cancer treatment.
Current state of cancer detection and therapy
Cancer has been detected using conventional ways by use of observation of the growth of body organs with the use of X-Rays or CT Scan. Patients suffering from cancer will require that early detection that will be followed by immediate therapy. This is where their survivability largely depends. The confirmation is done through the use of biopsy. These methods are not that effective as most often there will be the need to wait till the organs have grown so that cancerous cells can be detected. This process is causing a lot of deaths which are caused by the delays that we experience in the long process. This is the reason as to why there is a need to have a new process which is faster.
The promise of nanotechnology in cancer therapy
Nanotechnology deals with minute particles, which are in the range of 1-100nm. These are emerging therapeutics in treating cancer. With nanotechnology, there are sensitive devices, which have been designed in the nanoscale like cantilevers, nano tubes and quantum. These devices offer the possibility to detect the smallest signs of molecules that have signs of malignancy. These tools that use nanotechnology assist the clinicians to detect cancer in its earliest stages. This way, their treatment is assured. There are also devices that are multi-targeted, and have the capability to bypass biological barriers. Nanoparticles offer new ways to overcome the resistance of drugs because nanoparticles are able to go around P-glycoprotein efflux pump. This is one of the commonly known drug resistance mechanism that is known.
Cancer detection using nanotechnology
With nanotechnology, it is very much possible to detect even the most rare occurrence of molecules that are involved in malignancy. This is with the use of nanoscale devices like nano wires, nano cantilevers and nano channels. The collecting these signals for analysis can be undertaken with the use of nanoscale harvesters. There is also another area of detecting mutations. There are developments that have been seen in this area where devices which make use of in-vitro techniques. The figure below shows a nano wire that is used in cancer therapy.
With the use of nanoparticles, there is a provision of tuning and designing properties that are impossible with other types of therapeutic drugs. This is a new opportunity for future generations of therapeutics in cancer. With the use of nanotechnology, the technology may eventually render nano particles to be able to kill cancerous cells. This is a research area that is being investigated.
Beeta, Ehdaie. "Application of Nanotechnology in Cancer Research." International Journal of Biological Science 3.2 (2007): 108-110.
Mauro, Ferrari. "Cancer nanotechnology opportunities and challenges." Nature Review Paper 5 (2005): 161-171.
Ompalsing, Ben and Robert Nehru. "Nanotechnology and cancer treatment." Asia Journal of Experimental Science 22.2 (2008): 45-50.