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Catching the early spread of breast cancer
Date:3/19/2014

ells, we could manipulate and measure things inside cells," said Mirkin, of Northwestern University. "Most people said we were wasting our time, but then out of curiosity, we put these particles in cell culture. Not only did we find that they go in, they went in better than any material known to man."

Taking advantage of their ability to enter cells easily, Mirkin's group set out to turn SNAs into a diagnostic tool the nano-flare. Recently, he and Thaxton designed these particles, which enter circulating healthy and unhealthy cells in blood samples, but light up only inside breast cancer cells.

"Nano-flares can detect just a few cancer cells in a sea of healthy cells," Mirkin said. "That's important because when cancer spreads, only a few cells may break off from the original tumor and go into the bloodstream. An added bonus of these particles is that scientists may be able to sample the live cancerous cells and figure out what therapies they might respond to."

The groups have successfully tested the nano-flares' ability to identify metastatic breast cancer cells in blood samples from animals and are currently experimenting with human samples.

"If the work pans out, a commercial diagnostic test could be available in the near future," Thaxton said.

In addition to diagnostics, it turns out nano-flares can be used to perform other unique and valuable tasks.

"Nano-flares represent the only way to measure genetic content in live cells," Mirkin said. This kind of real-time observation could be useful in many areas of research and could lead to clinical advances. For example, using nano-flares, scientists can see how drugs target different genes. This would help them develop better treatments. One company, Millipore, has already commercialized the particles for use in research labs under the name SmartFlaresTM and offers more than 1,200 variations.


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Contact: Michael Bernstein
214-853-8005 (Dallas Press Center, March 14-19)
202-872-6042
m_bernstein@acs.org

Contact: Katie Cottingham, Ph.D.
214-853-8005 (Dallas Press Center, March 14-19)
301-775-8455
k_cottingham@acs.org

American Chemical Society


Source:Eurekalert

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