By Will Soutter
A multi-disciplinary team at Case Western Reserve University has developed nanochains that target metastases much before their transformation into new tissues and detect their sites with the help of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
According to the researchers, pictures of the accurate location and size of metastases may be helpful in guiding ablation or surgery, or in the direct delivery of anti-cancer medicines into the cells much before the formation of a tumor. The study results have appeared in ACS Nano, a journal of the American Chemical Society.
To mark micrometastases, the new nanotechnology targets integrins, which are overexpressing surface molecules delivered by blood vessel walls towards the blood site subsequent to the attachment of cancer cells, informed one of the researchers, Efstathios Karathanasis.
To target the cancer marker, the researchers designed a nanochain by connecting nanoparticles one by one just as a stack of Legos. The purpose of this design is to make the nano device to drift out of the blood flow towards the blood vessel walls. This is not possible with nanospheres as they have the tendency to move along with the blood flow. The nanochain’s exterior has multiple sites fashioned to attach with integrins. In flow tests, the nanochains demonstrated an attachment rate 10 times higher than that of nanospheres.
To increase visibility during MRI, the researchers added fluorescent markers and made four links of the nanochain with iron oxide. They then injected their nanochains in breast cancer mouse models and took images using fluorescence molecular tomography and MRI within an hour. What they found was travelling cancer cells created footholds mainly in the spleen, lungs and liver. The size of the metastases detected utilizing the nanochains was 0.2-2 mm. High-magnification imaging demonstrated that majority of these metastases were present in the blood vessel walls prior to their transformation into organ tissues.
The team is now working with clinical radiologists headed by Vikas Gulani, Assistant Professor of Radiology, to calculate the efficacy of this nanotechnology in finding new cancer.