Nanoparticles are particularly useful because of their adaptability, according to Lanza, who sees patients at Barnes Jewish Hospital. "We can also make these particles so that they can be seen with nuclear imaging, CT scanning and ultrasound imaging," Lanza says.
In addition, the particles can be loaded with a wide variety of drugs that will then be directed to growing tumors. "When drug-bearing nanoparticles also contain an imaging agent, you can get a visible signal that allows you to measure how much medication got to the tumor," Lanza says. "You would know the same day you treated the patient and if the drug was at a therapeutic level."
Using nanoparticles, drug doses could be much smaller than doses typically used in chemotherapy, making the procedure potentially much safer.
"The other side of that is you have the ability to focus more drug at the tumor site, so the dose at the site might be ten to a thousand times higher than if you had administered the drug systemically," Lanza says.
The nanoparticles also may permit more effective follow up, because a doctor could use them to discern whether a tumor was still growing after radiation or chemotherapy treatments.
Although this study focused on melanoma tumors, the researchers believe the technology should work for most solid tumors, because all tumors must recruit new blood vessels to obtain nutrients as they grow.
Nevertheless, melanoma has unique traits that make it especially interesting as a target for nanoparticle therapy. Melanoma has a horizontal phase, when it spreads across the skin surface, and a vertical phase, when it goes deep into the body and grows quickly.
"Once melanoma has moved into its vertical phase, it is almost untreatable because by the time the tumors are lar
Source:Washington University School of Medicine