Friday, July 16, 2021

Not a cure for cancer, but maybe a significant breakthrough

It's not a cure for cancer, but a very promising test for cancer has been developed at MIT. And, as we know, an early diagnosis is a good step towards beating the disease.

The test uses a simple urine test and nanoparticles, which sounds very science fiction but which actually is a practical reality these days. These particular nanoparticles can create "synthetic biomarkers" in urine if any kind of cancer is encountered anywhere in the body. Very simply, the nanoparticles introduced into the body are coated in peptides which get cut up by the proteases that cancers create as they spread through the body, and the scars on the peptides caused by an encounter with a tumour can be read as evidence of a cancer when the nanoparticles reach the person's urine. Clever!

Even better, if cancer biomarkers are found using this test, a secondary test can be performed to more accurately locate the problem area. This time, the nanoparticles are coated in specific peptides that are attracted to acidic environments like those that tumours tend to create around themselves. They will therefore tend to cluster around cancers, and the addition of a copper-64 radioactive tracer means that these clusters can be located using a PET scan. Also very clever!

So, no, it is not a cure for cancer, but we know that cancer outcomes are significantly improved the earlier it is diagnosed. The team envisage the urine test being routinely carried out at annual checkups. It is still in the long process of development and testing, but what a breakthrough that would be!


Japanese researchers are also looking at nanoparticles, this time to more accurately target radiation therapy to kill cancer cells from within while sparing healthy cells. Heady times in cancer research.

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