FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Monday, May 02, 2005

Fighting Cancer with Smart "Nanocarriers"

The big problem with many cancer treatments -- namely chemotherapy -- is that they take a "scorched earth" approach by attacking healthy as well as cancerous cells. Hence, the fatigue, nausea, hair loss and other unpleasant side effects. And hence, the drive toward developing more precise forms of cancer treatment.

One promising approach being pioneered by Singapore's Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) is the use of "nanocarriers" -- tiny capsules (200 nanometers) designed to react with specific cancer tissues. The nanocarriers are pH-sensitive, so they react with, and only with, tumors that exhibit a specific pH balance. As a result, they don't release their medicine payload until they reach the appropriate point in the body, thereby sparing healthy cells. So far, the IBN team has demonstrated the effectiveness of the nanoparticles with cancerous tumors in mice.

The clear benefit of nanoparticles is to make cancer treatments more effective, more rapid and less traumatic to the patient. And, because it would presumably reduce waste and risk, nanocarriers could also lower costs.

Source: PhysOrg