Nanoparticles to treat Cancer

Originally written for SCG Innovation Institute.

Researchers from Monash University and the University of New South Wales in Australia have combined forces to synthesise a new iron oxide nanoparticle which can deliver cancer drugs to cancer cells within the body and monitor the release of the drugs in real time.

By monitoring the release of the drugs, the treatment can be adapted to each individual patient.  An additional benefit of being able to monitor the drug release is that doctors can also monitor the effects of the drug on the cancer cells and surrounding tissue.  As such the dose can be adjusted to achieve the best possible result for the patient.

The research team used a technique known as fluroescenece lifetime imaging to monitor the release of drugs into a line of lung cancer cells.  Most testing of this nature occurs with models which are purposely built to test the theoretical principles researchers are working on, however in this instance the use of lung cancer cells allows the research team to be able to determine the true movement of drug release in an authentic biological environment.

There have been a large number of studies on magnetic iron oxide nanoparticles, particularly in their ability to act as contrast agents in MRI (magnetic resonance imaging).  Recent studies have explored the possibility of infusing this type of contrasting agent with drugs for treatment, but none of these studies have been successful in proving the drug release will occur within the affected cell.

The combined team from Monash and UNSW have successfully demonstrated for the first time that via their new way of loading the drugs into the nanoparticles, they are able to deliver drugs to within the affected biological cells. This research could mean exciting things for the theranostics field, which applies nanoparticles to the treatment and diagnosis of disease.

Author: Rebecca Millar

Rebecca is a freelance PR and Communications Specialist, Author, Science Writer, and Star Trek fan with a fondness for caffeine and all things geek. When she's not getting her comms specialist on, she's usually introverting Trekkie style, studying her Masters in Astronomy, or at her local fire brigade where she volunteers as a firefighter.

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