You Are Here: Home > Cancer Research > New Horizons In Cancer Treatments >
The Promise Of Nanotechnology

The Promise Of Nanotechnology

Eventually, it should be possible to mix and match anticancer drugs with any one of a number of nanotechnology-based delivery vehicles and targeting agents. This will give researchers the opportunity to fine-tune therapeutic properties without needing to discover new bioactive molecules.

Potential advantages of nanotechnology

The small size of nanoparticles endows them with properties that can be very useful in oncology, particularly in imaging. An exciting research question is how to make nanoparticles perform more functions in the treatment of cancer. For instance, is it possible to manufacture multifunctional nanoparticles that would detect, image, and then proceed to treat a tumor?

Better prevention tools
  • Nanoscale devices need to be developed that can deliver cancer prevention agents.
  • We need to design multicomponent anticancer vaccines using nanoscale delivery vehicles

Better diagnostics

  • Nanotechnology could help reduce the invasiveness of some cancer diagnostic procedures
  • It could also highlight a tumor's parameters and margins to enhance the precision of diagnostics.
  • Nanotechnology biomarker screening could be used to detect disease in a very small amount of cells or tissue
Image courtesy of the National Cancer Institute

Personalized Medicine
Recently Diagnosed
Cancer 101
  • Multiple diagnostic tests could be situated together on the same small device, entering and monitoring cells within a living body simultaneously, improving efficiency, better sensitivity, and possibly reducing cost.
  • Nanoparticles could enter cells and the organelles inside them to interact with DNA and proteins to identify alterations, shapes, locations, and more.
  • They could improve efficacy and reduce the side effects of both diagnostics and treatments

Better imaging methods

  • Nanotechnology could improve targeted imaging capabilities

Better targeting of cancer cells

  • Nanoshells may be used to concentrate the heat from infrared light to destroy cancer cells with minimal damage to surrounding healthy cells.
  • Nanoparticles, when activated by x-rays, generate electrons that cause the destruction of cancer cells to which they have attached themselves.



Reduce damage to healthy cells in the body by delivering drug only to cancer cells.

Image courtesy ofthe National Cancer Institute  


Quality of Life Enhancement in Cancer Care

  • Quality of life could be improved by designing nanoscale devices that can optimally deliver medications used for treating conditions that can develop during the course of chronic anticancer therapy, including pain, nausea, loss of appetite, depression, and difficulty breathing.

Other possible benefits

  • Improved knowledge about health and disease related to cancer
  • Reduced costs with some diagnostic tests

Potential disadvantages of nanotechnology

Understanding the issues related to toxicity and the environmental impact of nanoscale materials will help overcome problems that exist for nanomedicine at present. Although there are a number of promising breakthroughs in medicine, relatively little is known about the potential health and environmental effects of tiny particles.

Millions of dollars are being spent on product development, but some scientists feel that insufficient funds are committed to determining whether nanomaterials pose a danger to human health. It is recognized that subtle changes in the size of the particles used in the nanoscale materials can produce widely different changes in their properties, including their toxicity.


Because elements at the nanoscale behave differently than they do in their bulk form, there's a concern that some nanoparticles could be toxic.

Some doctors worry that the nanoparticles are so small that they could easily cross the blood-brain barrier, a membrane that protects the brain from harmful chemicals in the bloodstream.

Image courtesy of How Stuff Works  

If we plan on using nanoparticles to coat everything from materials used in our clothing to our highways, we need to be sure that these particles won't poison us.

Other areas of concern

  • Side effects
  • High costs
  • Potential for short-term efficacy
  • Challenges associated with the sophistication of the technology
  • Nanotechnology may be advancing so fast that its use may outpace efforts to ensure its safety
  • The precision of nanotechnology is a challenge and opportunity. Nanotechnology development requires the incorporation of very high-tech mathematical models not used in other forms of cancer drug development. These models may not accurately predict the safest and most effective cancer diagnostic and treatment approaches.
  • Nanotechnology may be so small that in some instances the body might clear them too rapidly to be effective.

What is the availability of nanotechnology?

Treatments using nanotechnology have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for specific types of cancer.

Nanotechnology is primarily available through clinical trials (research studies in people). Health insurance companies may or may not provide coverage for nanotechnology, which may be very expensive.

Ask your oncologist about the use of nanotechnology for your diagnosis, and the possibility of combining it with other cancer therapies.

Examples of current nanotechnology research

  • Nanoparticles that aid in imaging malignant lesions to show surgeons the location of the cancer and how best to remove it.
  • Nanoshells that kill tumor cells selectively to eliminate side effects resulting from healthy cells being destroyed.
  • Dendrimers (nanoscale molecules) that sequester drugs to reduce systemic side effects, deliver multiple drugs to maximize therapeutic impact.
  • Biosensors that monitor genetic changes and hyperplasia to prevent cancer progression.
  • Nanoparticles that target and destroy lymphatic vessels unique to breast cancer tumors.
  • Nanotechnology devices that target tumor angiogenesis-the growth and recruitment of blood vessels that characterize and are essential to the growth of many cancers.





Site Design by: Studio457
CISN Home Page About Us Services CISN Home Page Contact Site Map CISN Home Page CISN Home Page