About Nanomedicine

Advancing Diagnosis and Treatment at the Molecular Level
How Nanoparticles Work
Advancing the Technology
Targeted, Personalized Medicine
Nanotechnology Links

Advancing Diagnosis and Treatment at the Molecular Level
Nanotechnology involves the development and use of materials and devices to manipulate matter at the level of molecules and atoms. To understand the incredibly small scale at which this occurs, imagine this – a nanometer is one billionth of a meter, or 1/80,000 the width of a human hair.

Nanomedicine is a promising field of research related to nanotechnology. It uses nanoparticles – extremely small, bead-shaped carriers of medicinal agents – to locate, diagnose and treat disease. Injected into the bloodstream, these tiny spheres travel deep into the body to identify and highlight tumors undetectable by methods typically used today. The nanoparticles also can deliver therapeutic agents to destroy the tumor.

Someday, this advanced technology could replace numerous medical tests, scans or surgeries currently needed to treat cancer and other major health challenges.

How Nanoparticles Work
Although tiny, each nanoparticle can carry hundreds of thousands of molecules on its surface. Medical researchers now have the ability to attach molecules that home in on cells within the body having complementary molecules on their surfaces. As a result, the molecules carried by nanoparticles are able to target cancerous tumor cells.

Advancing the Technology
The Siteman Cancer Center is at the forefront of advancing nanomedicine technology. Samuel Wickline, MD, and Gregory Lanza, MD, PhD, are co-inventors of a nanoparticle that has added another dimension to the targeting internal disease sites. The unique composition of their nanoparticle allows them to attach not only homing molecules but also a large number of imaging molecules. The result is a signal that “lights up” the targeted cells. This strong illumination means the nanoparticle has great potential for spotting disease sites at an early stage, when treatment may be most effective.

Targeted, Personalized Medicine
Nanomedicine is the next step in targeted, personalized medicine. A nanoparticle’s ability to carry therapeutic agents – actual medicine – means drugs specifically designed to kill cancer cells can be included along with homing and imaging agents. Once a nanoparticle reaches its target, the brightness of the imaging agent will show the physician the size of the tumor and the amount of drug that reached the site. That information can be used to adjust future treatments.

Another advantage of nanoparticles is that they are attracted to a particular disease site and have little effect on the rest of the body. In contrast, standard chemotherapy drug administration dilutes medication throughout a person’s system, which means it reaches areas where it is needed as well as areas where it is not.

Nanotechnology Links