Chemotherapy Improved Through New Nanotechnology

Chemo patients now have a new method of monitoring their chemotherapy medicine in a more accurate way.
Fabienne Lang

Chemotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that is, unfortunately, something you have probably heard and read about a lot, with cancer rates rising worldwide.

Scientists at Michigan State University have created a new method to monitor chemotherapy dosages, making it more effective for patients' treatment. 

The findings were published earlier this month in Nano Letters


Chemotherapy and its advancements 

Chemotherapy is used widely around the world for various cancers and their treatment and has greatly improved over the years it's been used.

However, that doesn't mean that it's foolproof. High dosage, for example, can destroy healthy tissues and cells and result in painful side effects, or the worst cases, death. Alternatively, a low dose and the cancer cells aren't killed, coming back in full force, if not stronger. 

There's still a way to go in figuring out the right dosages. 

Chemotherapy Improved Through New Nanotechnology
Quantitative drug release monitoring. Source: Michigan State University/Nano Letters

This is where Bryan Smith, associate professor of Biomedical Engineering at Michigan State University, and his team come in.

They have created a process whereby magnetic particle imaging (MPI) uses superparamagnetic particles as the contrast agent and the only signal source to monitor the drug release into the patient's body and at precisely at the tumor's site. 

Smith said, "It’s noninvasive and could give doctors an immediate quantitative visualization of how the drug is being distributed anywhere in the body."

He continued, "With MPI, doctors in the future could see how much drug is going directly to the tumor and then adjust amounts given on the fly; conversely if toxicity is a concern, it can provide a view of the liver, spleen or kidneys as well to minimize side effects. That way, they could precisely ensure each patient remains within the therapeutic window."

How did the scientists find this method?

Smith and his team, including Stanford University researchers, used mice models to pair their superparamagnetic nanoparticle system with Doxorubicin, a drug used in chemotherapy. 

What the team discovered was that the nanocomposite combination was turned into a drug delivery system, while it served as an MPI tracer.

When combined with this nanocomposite, an MPI tracer can illuminate drug delivery rates in tumors, even when they're deep within the body. 

Chemotherapy Improved Through New Nanotechnology
MPI-based drug release monitoring. Source: Michigan State University

Then, as the nanocomposite degrades, it releases Doxorubicin into the cancerous tumor. At the same time, the iron oxide nanocluster disassembles, triggering the MPI signal changes. This allows doctors to see more clearly exactly how much medicine is getting into the tumor. 

Smith pointed this out by saying, "We showed that the MPI signal changes are linearly correlated with the release of Doxorubicin with near 100-percent accuracy."

He continued, "This key concept enabled our MPI innovation to monitor drug release. Our translational strategy of using a biocompatible polymer-coated iron oxide nanocomposite will be promising in future clinical use."

Smith's process will move toward clinical trials, and if all goes to plan, it may be available within the next seven years.

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