Magnetic nanoparticles - When nanotech meets biotech

Nanotech offers new and more effective ways to hunt for cancer cells before they turn into real problems, including the use of magnetic nanoparticles that hitch a ride on antibodies to seek out the cancer cells before they become a threat.

The first human clinical trials of a cancer-imaging nanoparticle is set to begin after the FDA approved an investigational new drug (IND) application for C dots. The C is for Cornell, which developed the nanoparticle with help from the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center's Nanotechnology Center and Cambridge, MA-based Hybrid Silica Technologies. The clinical trial will test C Dots in melanoma patients.

C dots, were initially developed as optical probes at Cornell University by Ulrich Wiesner, who has spent the past eight years precisely engineering the silica spheres. The dots contain dye that glows when excited by light of a specific wavelength. They can "light up" cancer cells. Using PET scans, C dots can be imaged to evaluate tumors and response to therapy. Article

One of the more fascinating new detection techniques is use of magnetic coils known as SQUID, an acronym for superconducting quantum interference device. The device generates a magnetic field, causing metal nanoparticles to align in one direction. If the magnetic field is broken, the nanoparticles emit an electromagnetic signal as they relax back into their original state. Doctors can tell how many cancer cells are present--and where they are located--by measure the strength of the signal. Article

Tumors can give themselves away early because they shed what are called circulating tumor cells (CTCs) into the blood stream. The trouble is, using current detection methods, it is difficult to distinguish tumor cells from white blood cells, since both are similarly sized and can stick to the same antibodies, according to the NCI Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer. Here, again, nanoparticles can save the day. Emory and Georgia Tech researchers have found that polymer-coated and dye-studded gold nanoparticles that are linked to a growth factor peptide rather than an antibody can detect CTCs in patients with head and neck cancer. Article

Magnetic nanoparticles - When nanotech meets biotech
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