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By combining a nanoparticle that is readily visible in X-ray computed tomography (CT) scans with a molecule that targets tumor lymph vessels and other tumor tissues, a research team from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) and the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute has developed a new imaging agent that provides high-fidelity CT images of tumors and their edges. This work, led by Michael Sailor of UCSD and Erkki Ruoslahti of the Burnham Institute, was published in the journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition.
The researchers chose to create a nanoparticle from bismuth, the same element that forms the active ingredient in Pepto-Bismol. Bismuth, with its relatively large and massive nucleus, interacts strongly with X-rays, making it an ideal agent to increase contrast in CT images. To target their bismuth nanoparticles to tumors, the investigators used a small cyclic peptide known as LyP-1. This peptide, discovered in Dr. Ruoslahti's laboratory, homes specifically to the lymphatic vessels that drain many tumors, as well as to tumor tissues themselves.
Safety tests showed that the bismuth-LyP-1 nanoparticle was well-tolerated when injected into mice and that the nanoparticles cleared from blood and accumulated in tumors within 24 hours. CT imaging of tumor-bearing mice clearly revealed the presence of tumors and provided a very sharply-detailed image of the tumor margins for a full week after injection. Eventually, the nanoparticles clear from the body through the intestines.
About The National Cancer Institute (NCI)
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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