Can Nanotechnology Win The Race For Cancer Medication?

Nanotechnology and Cancer

Nanotechnology is a relatively new field of biotechnology that is showing tremendous promise. Therefore, all major scientists from leading organizations share a belief that nanotechnology has an immense potential to bring significant breakthroughs in many different areas of science, including biology.

Nanotechnology was first discovered through a congregation of two scientific inventions. The invention of the Scanning Tunnelling microscope in 1981 and the discovery of Fullerene in 1985.  the latter, which is an allotrope of the carbon atom, much like Graphene led to the development of nanotech. However, the concept of nanotech was first hinted by the renowned physicist Dr. Richard Feynman in his speech at the American Physical Society meeting at Caltech.

The technology has recently picked up the speed of development. Since biological and medical applications of it were discovered, all countries around the world have staked significant investments in research and development.

What is Nanotechnology?

Nanotechnology is that field of science, which deals with matter and its manipulation at atomic and molecular levels. One area of science, cannot describe nanotechnology completely. Because in this field, research and applications are significantly diverse and spread over different branches of science. Besides biological sciences, it has applications in organic chemistry, electronics, energy storage, sensors, defense, consumer products and many more.

Scientists discover that Nanotechnology has the potential to be used in different ways to fight different types of cancers.


The field of Nanomedicine/Medical nanotechnology currently deals with research and development of medical diagnostics and treatment using Nanotechnology. Since its inception, nanotech in medicine has opened up new and exciting avenues in cancer treatments, heart diseases, drug delivery, diabetes and many more.

Researchers from all over the world see numerous ways in which nanotech can help stop the spreading of tumors. It can not only stop their growth, but it is also able to destroy cancer cells without damaging the healthy cells of a body.

Why Nanotechnology to treat cancer?

Traditional cancer treatment requires therapy like radiation and chemo, whose negative effects outweighs its positive effects. On the other hand,  Nanotech has the potential to treat cancer cells in a way that does not harm patients. In addition, the treatment processes are non-invasive. Drug delivery is always a significant concern in cancer treatment. Nanotech researchers developed a method to alter drug nanoparticles. These particles are engineered in a way which makes them attracted to cancer cells. This allows direct treatment of the ailing cells while reducing damage to healthy cells of the body.

Researchers at MIT  developed a way to treat cancer cells using two different types of nanoparticles. The first nanoparticle helps to detect the tumor. While the other particles attract the drugs directly to the cancer cells using signals from the first type of Nanoparticles.

A sketch of nanoparticles working.  Source: Futurism & Eurekalert

Update of cancer medication development using Nanotech

Even though the field of cancer treatment using nanotechnology is at a very embryonic stage. However, researchers are seeing much hope in the following methods that are currently in the trial phase.

  • Nanoparticle Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is one of the most popular methods of treating and controlling the growth of malicious cells in the body. However, there are side-effects like extreme fatigue, hair loss, damage to cells in the bone marrow, nerve and muscles, diarrhea, constipation, etc.

A company named Cytimmune is developing a targeted chemotherapy method to deliver a tumor-killing agent TNF using gold Nanoparticles. TNF stands for Tumour Necrosis Factor Alpha. It is administered by way of attaching TNF with gold nanoparticle and Thiol-derivatised polyethylene glycol (PEG-THIOL).  Furthermore, the attachments to TNF help to cloak it from the body’s immune system allowing it to flow through the bloodstream without immune system detecting it.

  •  Nanoparticle Hyperthermia

Hyperthermia is a method of cancer treatment that uses heat to increase blood flow and oxygenation in the tumors. This renders the cancer cells more susceptible to radiation therapy.

It is beneficial for patients who experience recurrence. In their cases, a second complete course of radiation therapy can cause irreversible damage to healthy tissues. Hyperthermia can help patients to increase radiation dosage and effectiveness without multiplying the impact of unwanted side-effects.

There are different methods of using Hyperthermia to increase the effective power of cancer medications. The most significant process uses iron-oxide nanoparticles to heat up the cancer cells using alternating magnetic fields. This has helped to activate an immune system response to cancer cells. Moreover, this method of activating immune system response with the help of dendritic cells reduces the chances of recurrence and metastasis.

  • Nanoparticles in Cancer radiation therapy

Cancer becomes most deadly when it metastasizes and spreads all over the body. In such cases, doctors face problems of locating secondary tumors that spread all over the body. Therefore, in such cases Treatment becomes almost impossible and chances of survival are abysmal.

Researchers at the University of Missouri, America have found a way to create radioactive Nanoparticles.  These can target Lymphoma Cancer cells present at any corner of the body. Nanoparticles with a radioactive core help in stopping the spreading of cancer cells from the primary tumors. This discovery is significant, in a way that we might develop a way to treat patients with progressive cancers.

Cancer has claimed numerous innocent lives in the past. However, it is time to cure Cancer without harming patients. Nanotechnology has great potential to be the cure that shields humanity against this malicious disease. Targeted drug delivery and radiation therapy seem to be the answer to cancer treatment. However, this seems impossible to perfect without the use of nanoparticles.

Read more: How close are we to curing Cancer with CRISPR?


Author Bio:

Matthews Dave; Dr. Dave is a medical researcher at the University of Missouri specializing in Nanomedicine. He is known to pick up the pen from time to deliver medical article updating readers about the latest advancements in medical technology.


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