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I've been interested in nanotechnology for several years now, and one of the more hopeful applications is in the field of cancer treatment and prevention. Here is an excerpt from the synopsis of the cancer nanotechnology sessions:
Remarkable progress is being made. I'll be on the lookout for noteworthy news stories coming out of this conference.
Nanotechnology has the potential to have a revolutionary impact on cancer diagnosis and therapy.... For breast cancer, for instance, the goal of molecular imaging is to be able to accurately diagnose when the tumor mass has approximately 100-1000 cells, as opposed to the current techniques like mammography, which require more than a million cells for accurate clinical diagnosis.
In cancer therapy, targeting and localized delivery are the key challenges. To wage an effective war against cancer, we have to have the ability to selectively attack the cancer cells, while saving the normal tissue from excessive burdens of drug toxicity. However, because many anticancer drugs are designed to simply kill cancer cells, often in a semi-specific fashion, the distribution of anticancer drugs in healthy organs or tissues is especially undesirable due to the potential for severe side effects. Consequently, systemic application of these drugs often causes severe side effects in other tissues (e.g. bone marrow suppression, cardiomyopathy, neurotoxicity), which greatly limits the maximal allowable dose of the drug.
In addition, rapid elimination and widespread distribution into non-targeted organs and tissues requires the administration of a drug in large quantities, which is often not economical and sometimes complicated due to non-specific toxicity. This vicious cycle of large doses and the concurrent toxicity is a major limitation of current cancer therapy. In many instances, it has been observed that the patient succumbs to the ill effects of the drug toxicity far earlier than the tumor burden. This symposium will address the potential ways in which nanotechnology can address these challenges.... [Source]