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Nanoparticles to detect microtumors

A study with mice shows that nanoparticles that emit light can be injected to detect cancer at its earliest stage.

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The technique used by the Rutgers researchers is based on nanoparticles that emit light to identify and trace microtumors several months in advance  of the capacity of other conventional imaging technologies.

The team that designed it is optimistic about the possibilities of using them in a clinical way in the near future. According to Prabhas V. Moghe, one of the authors of the study and professor at Rutgers University-New Brunswick, “we have always dreamed about the possibility of  tracking the progression of cancer in real time , and that is what we have achieved with our research. We have detected the disease in its most incipient state.”

The method of their study, published in  Nature Biomedical Engineering , is considered  better and more effective than magnetic resonance  and other imaging technologies in detecting small and early cancerous tumors. To achieve this, Rutgers’ scientific team  used mice with breast cancer that were injected with optical waveguides that emit short-wave light  as they move into the bloodstream.


According to account Vidya Ganapathy, one of the coauthors of the study and professor researcher in the department of biomedical engineering at Rutgers, ” the cancer cells can stay in many different niches of the body  and this optical device continues to cells in their progress wherever they go. That way you  can treat the disease better, because you know where the tumor is going to spread.”

If compared with MRI, the optical nanoparticles were much more agile to detect the expansion of microtumors in the adrenal glands and bones of mice, which could allow  advance in several months at the time of treatment.

More effective than any other detection method

Other methods of detection such as computerized topographies and biopsies can be effective, but usually do not locate micrometastases or small groups of cancer cells.

If in future studies the viability of this new nanoparticle technology is confirmed, physicians will be able to diagnose and treat cancer at a stage when other detection systems are not able to locate the carcinogenic action until later.

And not only that: nanoparticles have the potential to identify more than one hundred types of cancer, according to Professor Moghe. For Steven Libutti, director of the Rutgers Cancer Institute in New Jersey, “the Achilles heel of the surgical treatment of cancer is the presence of micrometastases, but the nanoprobes described in this research have a great future when it comes to solving this problem.”

Obviously, we still need to prove the effectiveness of this method in human patients, but any improvement in the detection of cancer should be celebrated as it deserves aand it is only in the United States, it is expected that  in 2017 there will be 1,688,780 new cases of cancer and 600,920 deaths from this disease.

According to Moghe, this nanoparticle technology could be available in five years, which is very encouraging.

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