Nanotechnology: a promising and challenging path to cure cancer


According to the National Cancer Institute, in 2015 about 1.7 million new cases of cancer were diagnosed in the United States and around 600,000 people died from the disease.

The most common type of cancer is breast cancer, which had more than 234,000 new cases in the United States in 2015. Other most common cancers include prostate cancer and lung cancer.

After 25 years of rapid technological advances, research has revealed the complexity of cancer and found it closely related to the dynamic transformations of the genome.

These transformations trigger some modifications to cell processes and molecular events. The modifications can initiate and promote tumor genesis, progression, local invasion and metastasis, i.e., the hallmarks of cancer development.

These alterations may cause a wide scope of “diseases” that share similar molecular patterns causing transformation and malignancy.

Each of these molecular events drives abnormal growth and loss of differentiation, which ultimately causes tissue and organ failure.

Each event may be evaluated and used as diagnostics biomarker and therapeutic target. For example, therapy may target a mutated gene and silence its expression to avoid erroneous protein expression that mutates cell function.

However, the molecular onset of this disease is still unknown and the search for the mechanisms of treatment need further work.

It is here that Nanotechnology enters the fray to offer effective tools to diagnose and treat cancer.

Nanotechnology is a burgeoning field that is helping to address critical global problems from cancer treatment to climate change.

In fact, it is everywhere and in everyday practice, offering numerous tools to diagnose and treat cancer.

These tools include new imaging agents, multifunctional devices capable of overcome biological barriers to deliver therapeutic agents directly to cells and tissues, and devices capable of predicting molecular changes to prevent precancerous cells.

The novel physical properties of inorganic particles at the nanometer size scale, combined with the high specific surface of polymeric nanoparticles, have provided new tools to physicians for the diagnosis and therapy of diseases such as cancer.

The experience gathered thus far has shown that the next step in the effective translation of nanotheranostics into the clinics relates to the body’s response to the nanoconjugates.

But what are the toxicity impacts of these devices and platforms?

Are there enough data for the full chronic toxicity evaluation of the application of these systems? Is the immune system a friend or foe for nanotheranostics?

There are still many questions to be answered.

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