Pancreatic cancer could soon be diagnosed and treated with nanotechnology, as researchers begin a five-year pre-clininal test of the effectiveness of a microscopic nanoparticle that targets pancreatic cancer cells.
Using a $1.8 million grant from the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer program, scientists from Rice University’s Laboratory for Nanophotonics (LANP), Baylor College of Medicine’s Radiology Department, and the University of Texas’s MD Anderson Cancer Center will research gold-sheathed nanoparticles’ role in treating pancreatic cancer, they said in a statement.
“Pancreatic cancer is notoriously difficult to treat, and we hope nanoparticle-based ‘theranostics’ can change that,” said LANP Director Naomi Halas in a statement.
Theranostics is an emerging medical approach with the potential to simultaneously diagnose and treat diseases, including tumors.
The microscopic particles feature a gold nanoshell that converts light into heat to kill cancer cells. They can also be marked with a fluorescent dye combined with an active marker to make the targeted tumors stand out in optical and MRI scans.
“Our nanoparticles are designed to specifically target cancer cells and to function as both diagnostic and therapeutic agents,” Halas, who is also a professor of chemistry and biomedical, electrical and computer engineering at Rice, said.
The researchers are investigating various aspects of the nanotechnology, including its imaging and therapeutic capabilities, and also whether it can be used to increase the effectiveness of radiation treatment.
“Nanoparticle-based theranostics holds great promise, not only for treating pancreatic cancer, but for treating other forms of cancer as well,” Halas added.
Pancreatic cancer causes more than 35,000 deaths in the United States every year, according to the American Cancer Society. The five-year survival rate for all patients hovers around 4 percent, while the postsurgical survival rate is less than 25 percent.