COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Earlier detection
of cancer means a better chance of effective treatment.
The five-year survival rate for a patient with Stage
I breast cancer is 98 percent, while the survival
rate for later detection, stage II or greater, drops
to as low as 16 percent. University of Missouri-Columbia
experts from several fields, including physics and
radiology, are working together to use ultra tiny
nanoparticles to detect and treat cancer at the molecular
level. The researchers involved with this project
say early detection of all types of cancer is the
primary motivation for this research.
"The nanoparticles are
safe to handle and safe to administer, so this could
speed the process of approval," said Kattesh
Katti, professor of radiology and biomedical physics.
"This research looks very promising."
The metallic nanoparticles
are made especially for medical applications in a
patented process on the MU campus. Research is underway
to use the nanoparticles to detect cancer, even at
a pre-cancerous stage through medical imaging techniques.
First, doctors would administer millions of nanoparticles
programmed to target cancerous tumors. Once the metallic
particles locate the early tumor, doctors would use
an X-ray to see the tumor as early as just one cancer
cell, possibly months or even years earlier than can
be detected now. With current technology, cancer must
exist within a cluster of hundreds of cells and in
a much more advanced stage to be seen.
"The nanoparticles also
can aid in treatment of cancer, making it much more
effective," said Evan Boote, assistant professor
of radiology. "Soft tissue has a limited ability
to absorb radiation used for treating cancer. If you
increase the effective density of the tumor with metallic
nanoparticles, a higher radiation dose will be delivered
to the tumor while sparing normal tissue. Current
radiation therapy techniques, while designed to minimize
the dose to normal tissue, will often damage healthy
tissue causing harmful side effects. It is our hope
that these side effects will be minimized to a greater
extent with the presence of metallic nanoparticles
in the tumor."
"Nanoparticles are so
tiny that it would take 100,000 of them lined up to
equal the width of a single human hair," said
Kannan Raghuraman, research professor of radiology.
"A single nanoparticle inside of one cell would
be equivalent to an ant inside an automobile."
Contact: Christian Basi