Nanotechnology in general is the study of creating machines under the size of 100 nanometers and the idea, created by Richard P. Feynman in 1959 has progressed from condensing an entire encyclopedia onto the head of a pin into something truly life changing. In more recent times, many impressive new advances are being made in nanotechnology in the field of medicine, allowing doctors to diagnose cancer earlier through advanced imaging and being able to more effectively treat it with more effectively and safer. With these advances being made, one wonders, will nanotech bring about the cure for cancer?
For years now, oncologists have only been able to view cancerous cells or sites using fairly conventional methods, either using a biopsy, ultrasound, MRI etc. These have been very effective in the detection of cancer; however with the introduction of nanotech in the field of oncology, doctors’ options for cancer detection have been broadened and improved. It is known that the ability to detect cancerous cells or cells in the precancerous stage relies on the ability to monitor slight changes in molecular composition of the affected cells. Many feel that because of its advanced abilities, nanotechnology can be used to do this more precisely than ever before. The devices used are small enough to infiltrate various parts of the human anatomy which were once off limits unless you were on an operating table. Once inside, they can effectively track various toxicity levels, PH levels and other signs of cancerous cells, enabling the oncologist monitoring the results to act sooner, meaning a higher rate of survival. Nanotechnology doesn’t just stop at detection but is being developed to assist in the treatment of cancer as well.
Nanotechnology’s versatility is what is key in the treatment of cancer. These devices can be put into the body loaded with targeting information and powerful cancer treating drugs. The targeting information enables these devices to find the specific cells infected followed by that area being doused with drugs in hope of killing off the cancerous or pre-cancerous cells. Another hope is giving these devices the ability to release their treatment at specific times (possibly sequentially or simultaneously at different locations) to be even more efficient in cancer treatment. Another way they are hoping to utilize nanotechnology is through the use of infrared heat. When nanoshells are in specific cancerous cells, the addition of infrared light creates a temperature increase which is deadly to these cells without causing harm to surrounding cells that do not contain these nanoshells. Another device that is being used for treatment delivery is known as a dendrimer. This has been successful due to the large surface area, enabling researchers to attach lethal amounts of cancer fighting agents while still being small enough to infiltrate cell structures. Despite these breakthroughs for treatment, scientists want more.
The ultimate goal with nanotechnology in oncology is for there to be a single device that does it all. A single device that is able to find, identify, track and eliminate cancerous and precancerous cells in the body. With advances in nanotechnology occurring daily, this technology is truly advancing to new heights. Even though this super device isn’t here yet, oncologists and treatment specialists are still welcoming what they have due to its efficiency and effectiveness as an alternative diagnostic and treatment tool for cancer and know that it is here to stay. As of right now nanotechnology isn’t a cure, but it is a significant step forward in the fight against cancer that will without a doubt save lives and make cancer prevention, detection and eradication more effective than ever before.
Michael Blumreich is a contributor for the aptly named Notebook Review Site, LaptopReviews.com. He’s currently a university student and lover of all things tech.