Current methods for the detection of breast cancer have as limitations a low sensitivity, a limited spatial resolution or the need to use complicated and expensive technologies based on radioisotopes. A new report from researchers at the Emory-Georgia Tech Nanotechnology Center for Personalized and Predictive Oncology suggests that targeted iron oxide nanoparticles could overcome these limitations and serve as a novel imaging agent for early detection of breast tumors.
In the journal Clinical Cancer Research, the research team, led by Lily Yang and Hui Mao, both from Emory University School of Medicine, describe their development of a new type of nanoparticle construct made up of an oxide crystal. made of iron coated with a polymer. This polymer stabilizes the magnetic core and provides binding sites for tumor-directed peptides and fluorescent dyes. The targeted peptide is a fragment of a molecule known as urokinase-type plasminogen activator; this fragment binds to a receptor overexpressed by breast cancer cells.
In an initial set of experiments, the researchers showed that this construct was specifically accepted by breast tumor cells during their development in culture, with virtually no acceptance by other cell types. The researchers were able to imagine the nanoparticles by detecting the fluorescent dye using standard fluorescent microscopy.
The researchers then injected the nanoparticles into mice with human breast tumors. Five hours after injection, the nanoparticles were detected in the tumors using a commercial magnetic resonance scanner. Unlike with undirected nanoparticles, the imaging agent barely passed into the liver and spleen. The properties of these nanoparticles to target tumors were confirmed by fluorescence imaging, which can be obtained in animals as small as mice.
This work, detailed in the article "Receptor-targeted nanoparticles for in vivo imaging of breast cancer", has been funded by the NCI Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer, a global initiative designed to accelerate the application of nanotechnologies to prevention, diagnosis and cancer treatment. Researchers from Georgia State University and Ocean Nanotech also participated in the study. An abstract is available on the journal's website.