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Gold nanoparticles and lasers could make cancer treatment more dynamic and personalized

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Posted April 19, 2018

Cancer is not as scary as it used to be. Of course, it is a terrible condition which causes a lot of deaths worldwide every year. But nowadays we have novel therapies to combat cancer, even though sometimes it is difficult to say what is and what isn‘t working. Now scientists from the University of Queensland have developed new nanotechnology with gold particles which can provide an accurate prognosis of how cancer treatment is progressing.

This artsy-looking thing is a cancer cell, which can move around the body and form tumours in distant tissues. Image credit: National Cancer Institute via Wikimedia

This new blood test using gold nanoparticles can monitor the diversity of individual cancer cells circulating in the body. Scientists already tested this technology on blood samples from melanoma patients and found that it was able to provide critical information on changes in spreading tumour cells in various stages of the treatment. Researchers say that this technology is actually quite simple and yet it helps seeing whether the cancer is trying to spread and how it is responding to treatment. This is very important, because circulating tumour cells, which separate from the original tumour, can then form into new tumours in other tissues.

Technologies to detect the circulating tumour cells already exist. The problem is that that the procedure is time consuming and not perfectly accurate, because it is based on identifying distinctive proteins on the surface of the tumour cells. These proteins can be different, but current methods focus only on one kind of protein at a time, which means that lot of circulating tumour cells can remain unnoticed. Now scientists found a way to use golf nanoparticles attached to different antibodies, which can then stick to different proteins on a wide variety of circulating tumour cells. Then a simple laser technology allows detecting those gold particles that found cancer cells. Scientists say that this method could be easily implemented in hospitals.

Before this new diagnostic technique is implemented in real life, scientists want to develop it into a simple hand-held device. Professor Matt Trau, one of the authors of the study, said: “The gold nanoparticle technology is easy to use and extremely sensitive to CTC diversity – it can detect multiple types simultaneously down to as few as 10 CTCs in a 1 millilitre blood sample – and we saw dramatic changes during treatment for all patients studied”.

This technology will allow assessing if the treatment is working. In other words, doctors will be able to quickly see if the therapy is ineffective and thus some changes have to be made. Cancer treatment would become more dynamic and it would be harder for the tumour to be drug-resistant.

 

Source: University of Queensland

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