With President Obama’s new Moonshot Initiative announced last month, everyone is curious to see the evolvement in cancer diagnosis and treatment. However, because the initiative is so new, at this time we can only speculate. What research will be done? What new technologies and treatment methods will be discovered? How different will a cancer diagnosis and treatment plan look in 5 or even 10 years?
One of the most exciting recent discoveries that will change cancer diagnosis and treatment are nanocrystals. These “smart” particles are being developed with the purpose deliver chemotherapy drugs more efficiently.
Why Aren’t Current Cancer Treatment Methods Working?
Chemotherapy is one of the most common and trusted treatments for diagnoses like mesothelioma or other cancers; however, besides attacking the cancerous cells, it also ravages other areas of the body. Healthy cells, especially those that regenerate quickly like hair, are in turn destroyed.
“At this stage the treatment for cancer is applying radiation or chemical drugs which tends to be very aggressive,” said Dr. Dayong Jin from The University of Technology Sydney. “You might kill the cancer cells, but you can also kill up to 70 to 90 [percent] of the healthy cell.”
Another major issue with current cancer treatment is that there is also no simple way to deliver drugs to targeted areas.
A person’s immune system fights against the cancer treatments. Some of the drugs used to destroy cancerous cells end up being destroyed themselves by white blood cells attempting to protect the body. In turn, more medicine is used than necessary.
How Can We Upgrade Current Cancer Treatments?
Nanocrystals are shaking up the way we treat cancer patients.
The study of nanocrystals has evolved so that researchers can create different shapes and sizes to be used in various ways. Where current cancer treatments lack, nanocrystals will excel.
Not only can nanocrystals be used to deliver drugs more efficiently, but they can also be trained to find and target clearly defined cells. They’re also developed to blend in, so the immune system won’t trigger a response to eliminate the treatment.
Nanocrystals will help doctors identify the precise boundaries between healthy and cancerous cells. Dr. Jin said:
“Hybrid nanocrystals are multifunctional and able to do different things simultaneously. For example, one can design a super nanoparticle that has optical, magnetic, and chemical responses which allows for multiple modality imaging of the disease and [eventually] super high resolution images.”
How Will Nanocrystals Help with Mesothelioma?
While nanocrystals will drastically improve cancer treatment, expect to also learn more about how they’ll speed up early diagnoses, as well. Since mesothelioma often isn’t diagnosed until the end-stages, the early-detection by means of nanocrystals will in turn give patients better treatment options and life expectancies.
“Newly invented nanocrystals known as Super Dots® have the capability to ‘fish’ a diseased cell from millions in a blood or urine sample, for example, and give an accurate and non-invasive early diagnosis of prostate cancer,” said Dr. Jin.
Perhaps this will have potential applications for an earlier detection of mesothelioma as well.
Scientists at Boston College and Brigham and Women’s Hospital are already implementing nanocrystals as part of their mesothelioma chemotherapy method. Called a 2-step approach, first nanoparticles and then chemotherapy are administered.
In the Scientific Reports abstract, researchers state, “This two-step method results in a greater than 5-fold increase in intratumoral drug concentrations compared to conventional ‘drug-alone’ administration.”
Technology and research continues every day, and with the development and design of nanocrystals, mesothelioma treatments are bound to evolve as well.