December 30, 2013
The Nanotech Treatment
Cancer. It is a scary word, right? I know it is to me. Cancer runs in my family. My grandfather had it, both of my uncles have had it, and it is very likely that one day I will have it to. Cancer is still the second leading cause of death in the United States and I have personally seen just how hard it can be to go through the sorts of treatments needed in order to beat it. I have nothing but the greatest respect for both the survivors of cancer and for the doctors and nurses who allow those patients a fighting chance. This is why news of new possible treatments for cancer are always met with a great deal of excitement, because it means a greater chance beating back this unseen killer.
Of the many new possible treatments that come out each year, there has been a lot of talk about nanotechnology and, more specifically, nanomedicine. This is the use of nanites, tiny little machines that are measured in the billionths of a meter, used in the detection, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer and various other diseases. Compared to various other available treatments, nanomedicine has shown to be very promising in fighting cancer due to its ability to produce safer and more effective imaging and drug delivery, making it possible to target tumors and other infected areas of the body without interfering or harming any of the healthy tissue that surrounds it. In addition, nanotechnology has improved the efficiency of magnetic resonance imaging which makes it easier to detect and identify the more difficult to notice forms of cancer, which in turn leads to a greater chance of success thanks to its earlier detection.
Recently, Dean Ho, professor of oral biology and medicine at the UCLA School of Dentistry, and his team spearheaded the development of a nanodiamond-doxorubicin compound they called NDX. In preclinical studies, NDX was shown to be a safer and more effective treatment for breast, liver, and other forms of cancer than standard, unmodified doxorubicin, which is a clinical standard. This alone shows the possibilities of nanotechnologies in medicine.
Nanomedicine is still early in its development as a field of study and treatment, but it is off to a strong start. Abraxane, a protein-modified breast cancer drug, having already received FDA approval is a good sign for the future of nanomedicine and its related research. When facing cancer, in any form, it can be difficult to stay positive, to remind yourself that there is still hope, but there is. New technologies are being developed even now that will help to ensure patients treatment and recovery from these terrible diseases. Even so, much of the fight for survival must be done on a more personal level. That of the patient, their families, and their care-givers. They are the ones who must face this head on and bear through it.