Conventional cancer treatment can be brutal. While physicians do their best to target the cancer, chemotherapy and radiation often negatively affect healthy tissue as well. For nearly 30 years researchers have been seeking therapies that target the cancer cells specifically in order to minimize side effects.
Recent advances in nanotechnology are allowing microscopic particles to directly administer medication to tumor cells. A new study from the University of New South Wales in Australia was published in ACS Nano and claims to have developed a nanoparticle that does not only deliver the drug, but can actively monitor its release.
These nanoparticles, made from iron oxide, can track the process of medication delivery and monitor how it affects the cancer cells and surrounding healthy cells. This will allow physicians to understand how the treatment is affecting an individual and will allow them to alter treatment to best suit that patient’s needs.
The drug release is monitored via fluorescent lifetime imaging (FLIM) which fluoresces depending on the conditions of molecular environment. While this technique has been around since the late 1980’s, it has never been successfully applied to drug release before this study.
This study is important, as drug release is typically calculated using bench models, not actual cells. The results of this study allowed researchers to visualize what drug release movement looks like in an actual cellular environment.
Iron oxide nanoparticles have been the focus of research for quite some time as a contrast agent in MRI. Several groups have been attempting to place cancer-fighting drugs on the surface of the particles, but there had not been a way to confirm that the medications were effectively delivered to the intended target. This study encased the medication inside of the nanoparticles and was able to actually show that the chemotherapy was reaching the lung cancer cells.
Building off of the success of this study, the team will seek to move on to in vivo trials.