Researchers at Rush University Medical Center believe that nanotechnology can lead to new ways for diagnosing and treating ovarian cancer. Here’s a scoop from the artricle by Rush.
Nanotechnology is revolutionizing the way things are constructed — from stain resistant clothing to stronger, yet lighter tennis rackets. However, the biggest impact of nanotechnology in the future is expected to be in the healthcare industry.
“While the mortality rates of many cancers have decreased significantly in recent decades, the rate for ovarian cancer had not changed much in the last 50 years, primarily due to delays in diagnosis,” said Dr. Jacob Rotmensch, section director of gynecologic oncology at Rush. “By exploiting the unique properties of nanotechnology, we hope to detect ovarian cancer earlier using highly sensitive imaging tools and develop drug carriers that can deliver therapeutic agents inside tumor cells.”
“A nanotechnology based approach is needed because diagnosis of early stage cancer requires the detection and characterization of very small quantities of biomarker” added Dr. Liaohai Chen, a molecular biologist and leader of the nano-bio group in the Biosciences Division at Argonne, and an adjunct faculty at Rush University Medical Center.
A nanometer is one billionth of a meter or 1/80,000 the width of a human hair. Nanoscale devices can perform tasks inside the body that would otherwise not be possible, such as entering most cells and moving through the walls of blood vessels. As a result, nanoscale devices can readily interact with individual molecules on both the cell surface and within the cell, in ways that do not alter the behavior of those molecules.
One area of research involves developing a screening test that would not require removal of the ovary for biopsy. Collaborating with Dr. Rong Wang, an associate professor at Illinois Institute of Technology, the research team is using an atomic force microscope, a very-high resolution microscope that can investigate the interaction of individual protein molecules. With this microscope the research team can study the molecular structure of cancer versus non-cancer cells and compare the stiffness. Cancer tissues are more stiff than healthy tissues. Instead of removing the ovary to determine if cancerous tissue is present, a probe is currently under development to follow the tissue stiffness in vivo to diagnose cancer.