Here at Medgadget, we are big fans of anything that involves laser beams and nanotechnology. So when the National Institute of Health started funding the use of these technologies for the early detection of breast and prostate cancers, our ears perked right up.
Details about the technology being funded, from a press release by Fairway Medical Technologies, Inc., a Houston, TX company:
The new $2.7 million nanotechnology grant should allow Fairway to prove that optoacoustic imaging can locate tumors tagged with gold nanorods bound to antibodies against breast cancer-specific receptors. This new NIH-NCI funding authorization follows successful conclusion of Phase I research to optimize the imaging system and fabricate prototype gold nanorods.
Over four years of research and pilot studies by scientists at Fairway and The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB) indicates the system can detect breast cancer tumors potentially as small as 2 millimeters, five time smaller than most malignant breast tumors detected currently. If this is confirmed in Phase II tests with laboratory animals, it would mean that the proprietary system will make it possible to identify tumors that are easily curable and currently undetectable…
The imaging system uses laser light to create contrast between normal and cancerous tissues, and laser-induced ultrasonic waves to carry diagnostic information. This hybrid technology is the only medical imaging technology with the potential to differentiate between malignant and benign tumors based on blood concentration and the oxygenation state of blood in the tumor, as well as to visualize them with high resolution (smaller than 1 mm) at tissue depths of up to 60 millimeters (~2.5 inches). Ongoing patient testing at UTMB under the direction of Tuenchit Khamapirad, M.D. has demonstrated the device’s capability to detect breast tumors in more than 20 patients.
Higher contrast and image definition is produced by using NOCA (Nanoparticulate Optoacoustic Contrast Agent) in combination with the imaging system. The NOCA technology binds gold nanorods — with properties of optical absorption more than 1,000 times stronger than any organic molecule — to antibodies against breast cancer-specific receptors, making it possible for the average cancerous tissue with only 10 nanorods per cell to become detectable relative to normal tissue. NOCA flows in the blood stream until it finds a specific molecule-receptor in the tumor; then it binds to the abnormal cells and, after being activated by laser light pulses of specific colors, sends a signal showing the location of the cancer. The nanoparticles may also contribute to the cancer cell’s death by becoming delivery vehicles for targeted anticancer drugs and for heat receptors for minimally invasive light-activated therapy.