Cancer can soon be detected and diagnosed much before any visible growth with a simple finger prick test. Scientists claim, cancerous cells can now be identified at the nascent stage through researches related to nanotechnology, a branch of science, which deals with study of extremely small objects. The process is both economical and non-evasive.
The new technology also has the potential to deliver cancer-killing drugs directly to the identified cells.
“We envision this as a potential first-line, noninvasive diagnostic to detect anything from cancer to the Ebola virus,” said Adam Hall, assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Centre in North Carolina, the US. The team headed by Hall recently published the study online in the journal Nano Letters. “Although we are certainly at the early stages of the technology, eventually we could perform the test using a few drops of blood from a simple finger prick,” Hall noted.
At present, cancer is diagnosed mostly through biopsy. For this, a certain amount of tissue cells have to be removed from the suspicious area for tests. However, some patients experience pain during the procedure. There are also risk of infection and bleeding.
Meanwhile, screening tests such as colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy, mamography, pap tests etc., are given to people who appear to be healthy and are not suspected of having cancer. Their purpose is to find cancer early, before any symptoms can develop. Hence, treatment becomes much easier. It is important to keep in mind that screening tests have its own limitations and side effects.
The newest technology will help reduce such risks as it can determine presence of such diseases by analyzing nucleic acids, which can’t be studied by most instruments due to its critically small size.
In terms of therapeutics, nanomedicines can be delivered to tumors in a more localized fashion than traditional drugs. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a handful of drugs in form of nanomedicines.
Several organisations are now trying to stimulate and coordinate research in biology, engineering and materials science to push forward nanotechnology in cancer.
US National Cancer Institute (NCI) has launched the Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer and is currently funds eight Centers of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence (CCNE) in the United States, in addition to 12 other smaller programmes, informed Piotr Grodzinski, Director of the NCI Alliance.