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A team of investigators at Purdue University has developed nanoscale probes that can help pinpoint the location of tumors and might one day be able to directly attack cancer cells. Joseph Irudayaraj, Ph.D., led the team that developed the tumor-targeting multifunctional probes. "If we have a tumor, these probes should have the ability to latch on to it," Dr. Irudayaraj said. "The probe could carry drugs to target, treat, and reveal cancer cells." This study appears in the journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition.
Researchers have developed probes that use either gold nanorods or magnetic iron oxide nanoparticles, but Dr. Irudayaraj's nanoprobes use both, making them easier to track with different imaging devices as they move toward cancer cells. The magnetic iron oxide particles can be traced using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), whereas the gold nanorods are luminescent and can be traced through microscopy, a more sensitive and precise process. Dr. Irudayaraj noted that an MRI is less precise than optical luminescence in tracking the probes but has the advantage of being able to track them deeper in tissue, expanding the probes' possible applications. The gold nanorods act as the "string," while the iron oxide nanoparticles, which are linked to the nanorods, serve as the "pearls."
The probes contain the antibody herceptin, which is used in the treatment of metastatic breast cancer. Experiments demonstrated that these probes targeted and were taken up by cultured breast cancer cells expressing the Her-2 protein. The investigators also showed that the nanoprobes, when illuminated with near-infrared light, could serve as photothermal anticancer agents. The investigators are now working to add additional anticancer agents to these nanoscale constructs.
About National Cancer Institute
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.
The NCI Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer is a comprehensive, systematized initiative encompassing the public and private sectors, designed to accelerate the application of the best capabilities of nanotechnology to cancer.
Currently, scientists are limited in their ability to turn promising molecular discoveries into benefits for cancer patients. Nanotechnology can provide the technical power and tools that will enable those developing new diagnostics, therapeutics, and preventives to keep pace with today’s explosion in knowledge.
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