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Iron nanoparticles designed to collect in lymph nodes containing metastatic cancer cells have proven that they can help physicians detect metastatic spread of prostate cancer. Now, a team of investigators at Harvard Medical School has pilot phase data showing that these nanoparticles can detect lymph node metastases in a highly sensitive and specific manner in patients with renal cell carcinoma, which accounts for some 20% of kidney cancers.
Reporting its work in the journal Oncology, a team of researchers headed by Alexander Guimaraes, M.D., Ph.D., Mukesh Harisinghani, M.D., and Ralph Weissleder, M.D., who is the principal investigator of the MIT-Harvard Center for Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence, showed that dextran-coated iron oxide administered to nine patients with kidney tumors could clearly identify lymph node metastases and distinguish them from benign lesions using magnetic resonance (MR) imaging. These results were confirmed by traditional histopathology techniques, revealing one false-positive among the MR imaging results. MR imaging of lymph nodes did not miss detecting any metastases later identified by histopathology. The researchers conclude that these studies warrant a larger, prospective clinical trial to prove that iron oxide nanoparticles can serve as a noninvasive diagnostic for metastatic disease.
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To help meet the goal of reducing the burden of cancer, the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health, is engaged in efforts to harness the power of nanotechnology to radically change the way we diagnose, treat and prevent cancer.
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