Published in: Stanford Medicine News Center. Apr 20, 2011.
Author: Bruce Goldman
A class of engineered nanoparticles — gold-centered spheres smaller than viruses — has been shown safe when administered by two alternative routes in a mouse study led by investigators at the Stanford University School of Medicine. This marks the first step up the ladder of toxicology studies that, within a year and a half, could yield to human trials of the tiny agents for detection of colorectal and possibly other cancers.
“These nanoparticles’ lack of toxicity in mice is a good sign that they’ll behave well in humans,” said Sanjiv Sam Gambhir, MD, PhD, professor of radiology and senior author of the study, published April 20 as the featured paper in Science Translational Medicine.
“Early detection of any cancer, including colorectal cancer, markedly improves survival,” said Gambhir. For example, the widespread use of colonoscopy has significantly lowered colon-cancer mortality rates, he said. “But colonoscopy relies on the human eye. So this screening tool, while extremely useful, still misses many cancer lesions such as those that are too tiny, obscure or flat to be noticed.”
A promising way to catch cancer lesions early is to employ molecular reporters that are attracted to cancer-lesion sites. One method in use involves fluorescent dyes coupled with antibodies that recognize and bind to surface features of cancer cells.