New Delhi: Nanotechnology holds out hope for faster, more efficient treatment of cancer, with scientists saying that it can help them in early detection of the disease and better drug delivery.
“Nanotechnology is one approach that complements a whole array of efforts to combat cancer in India and elsewhere in the world,” Ravi V Bellamkonda of Georgia Institute of Technology said.
Nanotechnology is a branch of applied science that deals with matters on atomic and molecular scale.
“This technology gives us more control over the properties of nano-scale structures so that they can be designed for more effective diagnosis and monitoring of the disease,” he said.
It also facilitates efficient drug delivery system, Bellamkonda added.
“Nano-science can tremendously upgrade healthcare service, especially cancer treatment with its multi-functional approach,” Professor J Narayan of North Carolina State University said.
“Same particles can be used in imaging probes, to carry drugs and also to monitor the efficacy of treatment inside one’s body,” Bellamkonda said.
Detection of cancer at an early stage is important to improve the treatment efficiency. Currently, detection of the disease mainly depends on physical examination or imaging of cells and tissues by doctors.
“This highly sensitive technology can help us in screening the cells and tissues accurately. Early detection always causes better outcome from treatment,” Dr Lionel Vayssieres said.
According to scientists, early detection, in turn, makes the whole process much cheaper as well.
“If we can prevent prolonged less effective treatment, it certainly cuts down total expense,” Bellamkonda explained.
“If there are effective and target-specific delivery systems for the existing drugs, their efficiency goes up significantly. Nanotechnology helps us right at this point,” he said.
“In our laboratory, we tend to make particles with the size of around 100 nanometres, which carry and release their payload in the form of anti-cancer drugs only on cancer affected cells in the body,” Bellamkonda said.
If the particles are larger than 200 nanometres, they will be cleared away by blood streams very quickly and won’t have time to attack cancer, scientists said.
Anti-cancer drugs are put inside a nano-scale shell that is made of fat. “In one sense, nanotechnology impacts drug manufacturing as well,” Bellamkonda said.
“Now the path of the medicines in the body will be dictated by their delivery vehicles and not their own chemistry. It will only add to the efficiency of cancer therapy,” he said.
Scientists are of the view that introduction of a target-specific drug delivery system will also cause less side-effects.
“Cancer therapy often causes different side-effects in patients today. For example, sometimes they become susceptible to other diseases after treatments,” Professor Narayan said.
“As nanotechnology-driven therapy will be focused on bad cells, side-effects will be minimised,” he added.
“Some drugs show toxicity after entering into human body which can be prevented by pointed drug delivery system,” Dr Vayssieres said.