Nanomedicine for cancer—A gentler alternative to harsh chemotherapy

Cell division and cell multiplication are required for growth and development, and for repair and replacement of dead cells. When cells continue to multiply even if there is no need for new cells, it grows into a tumor called cancer.

Till date, no one treatment has been found that can be said to be 100% effective. Among the vast number ofavailable treatments, chemotherapy is used widely all over the world. In chemotherapy,strong drugs are used to kill the rapidly multiplying cells. However, this treatment can become very unpleasant for the patient because of its horrific side effects. Chemo killsnot just the malignant cells but healthy cells as well, so it can cause many side effects. These side effects can be so unbearable that many patients even refuse to opt for chemotherapy.


Cancer screening
Via Wikipedia


Nanotechnology for targeted treatment

Scientists have been trying to formulate drugs that affect only the cancerous cells, leaving the healthy cells alone. After years of research, this has finally become possible.This new technology is called “nanotechnology”. It is still in its infancy, but scientists hope to develop it further to make it available to people very soon.

As a report published in Chemical & Engineering Newsreveals, a whole new group of cancer treatments that are based on Nanotechnology are being developed.Thetreatment will hopefully be available soon to treat cancer.

What exactly is nanotechnology?

This new technology is about targeting only the diseased cells using very minute particles of drugs.

Nanomedicineis a potential game-changer for the treatment of cancer. Nanopharmaceuticalsor nano-drugs can be placed directly in the tumor. This is where their effects will be most significant, rather than have them roam around in the body. The drug is attached to a nanoparticle, which is then directed to a specific location. Nanoparticlesare small enough to flow through blood vessels and into the tumor. The drug is released inside the tumor, as the nanoparticle dissociates.

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Nanotechnology research

In a cover story of Chemical &Engineering News, the senior editor BethanyHalfordquotedPiotrGrodzinski, the director of National Cancer Institute’s Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer, that the new nanomedicine cancer treatment involves nanoparticle-based medicines that direct anti-cancer drugs straight to affected cells because of their ultra-small size. These particles slip through tiny passages in the blood vessels that nourish tumors, and then enter the tumors themselves to destroy them.

Mark Davis, a chemical engineering professor at the California institute of Technology, explains that the nanoparticles are created at nanoscale. A nanometer is one billionth of a meter.To understand this, consider the width of a single strand of hair which is about 10,000 nanometers. At this scale, the nanomedicines can be maneuvered to go in a specific direction toward the malignant cells. Davis says that blood vessels of tumors are poorly formed, and hence are full of leaks. Nanoparticles are less than 100 mm in diameter and can easily slip through the leaks with EPR effect (enhanced permeability and retention). To date, more than 150 patients have undergone nanotechnology treatment with minimal side effects and progression-free survival time.

Bind Biosciences” researches indicate that there are few side effects with their new polymer based nanoparticles drug BIND-14. The targeting ligand in BIND-14 drug is a small molecule that binds to prostate-specific membrane antigen. It carries the chemotherapeutic drug docetaxelthat works effectively.

Nanobiotrix, a France-based company, has developed radiation treatment that destroys cancer cells without harming healthy cells.They use crystals that are 50mm in diameter,called NBTXR3. These crystals are injected directly into the cancerous growth where they slip into the cancerous cells. They create radicals when exposed to x-rays and thus eradicate the cancerous cells. This treatment is thermal and hence, has no resistance from cancers.

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With the rapid progress in the field of nanotechnology research, the technology will soon be available to cancer patients all over the world. The new technology can revolutionize cancer treatment and offer a better, healthier life to many.