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Sample Topic: Nanotechnology in Cancer Treatment

Writer: Dhruvi Patel

Instagram: @_.dhruvi.patel_

Email: dhruvi.patel0557@gmail.com


This image taken from an electron microscope shows a round, blue object, which represents a dendritic cell (antigen-presenting cells derived from bone marrow precursors). In the picture, it is presented with nano vaccines, which are the white cylindrical forms. The nano vaccine is made of porous silicon and contains immune-stimulating molecules and tumour antigens. These cells instigate an anti-tumour response within the host as a result of the nano vaccine. [1]


The Global Impact of Cancer

Having the ability to separate families and take millions of innocent lives, cancer is one of the most gruesome medical conditions to have ever existed. Cancer is the uncontrollable growth of abnormal cells within our bodies. The abnormal cells gradually replace all the well working cells causing the body’s standard control mechanism to stop working. A tissue formed by a mass amount of the abnormal cancerous cells is called a tumour. [2]

Cancer has a disastrous impact since it is the second leading cause of death, and takes 1 out of 6 lives. Apart from death, 1 in 3 people develop the disease. There are a plethora of ways one can develop cancer. The most common risk factor is tobacco consumption, as it is responsible for 22% of cancer deaths. 25% of cancer cases also originate from infections such as hepatitis and human papillomavirus (HPV). Other common behavioural and dietary risks of cancer include high body mass index, low fruit and vegetable intake, and alcohol consumption. The most common types of cancer are lung cancer and breast cancer. Cancer can also develop from genetic mutation due to exposure to radiation and errors in a DNA repair gene.

Although many cancer cases occur in first world societies, they are often treated, and most deaths are prevented. However, in low-income countries where there is late-stage presentation, and diagnosis and treatment technology is inaccessible, 70% of all deaths from cancer occur. [3]


Flaws of Conventional Methods of Cancer Treatment

The three most common ways to treat cancer is through surgery, radiation therapy, and systemic therapy. The type of treatment administered to a cancer patient is often dependent on several factors, including the type, location and number of cancer cells, and the patient’s health status. The sooner the cancer is diagnosed, the easier it is to eradicate from one’s body. The three conventional methods of cancer treatment have helped many in treating cancer. However, there are many severe side effects to these methods.

Surgery is often done to remove benign tumours (tumours where cancerous cells have not yet spread through the body) to completely rid the body of cancer or take out a part of it. Complications that occur due to the surgery include the redeveloping of cancer as surgery can not kill microscopic diseases around the edges of the tumour, thus resulting in tumour cells to be left in the body. In addition, if surgery is done in an area that is hard to reach, such as the lungs, where the ribs have to be temporarily removed, it causes damage to nearby healthy tissue.

Radiation Therapy is where radiation is focused on cancerous tumours to kill the cells. With radiation therapy, there is a possibility for damage to surrounding tissues as the radiation can hit normal tissue adjacent to the cancerous cells. In addition, radiation therapy can not reach cancer cells that have spread through the body resulting in the cancer becoming metastasis. These cells do not appear on imaging scans, so there is no way to determine their location.

Systemic therapy is done through medications that impact the entire body, such as chemotherapy and vaccines. They can kill many cancer cells throughout the body in the case of metastasis cancer. This option must be used with surgery or radiation therapy as it has the inability to kill large tumours. Many individuals also cannot take this form of therapy if they are already on medications that result in blood thinning, or have just had surgery. They can be exposed to severe medical conditions such as kidney failure, liver failure, and heart disease. [4]


Nanotechnology

Many of the complications above, however, can be reduced by treating cancer through nanotechnology. Nanotechnology has the ability to precisely target chemotherapies directly at cancerous cells and neoplasms. They can also guide surgical resection of tumours to reduce the possibility of cancerous cells being left over. For radiation therapy, efficiency is enhanced as the damage made on surrounding tissues is decreased.

Nanoparticles encapsulate many small molecules and have physical properties such as energy absorption and reradiation. They are commonly used to deliver chemotherapies to particular cells. The advantage of using nanosized carries is that they increase the drug’s overall therapeutic index due to their size and surface properties. The timing or site of drug release can be controlled through ultrasound, pH, heat, or material composition of the nanoparticle.

Immunotherapy is a new front in cancer treatment made possible through nanotechnology. Nanoparticles can be used to deliver immunostimulatory molecules alongside chemotherapy and radiation therapy. This form of treatment has proven to be really effective in clearing cancerous tumours.

Nanotechnology can also deliver and augment radiation therapy. Drugs can be delivered to local tumour sites with x-ray triggered drug-releasing nanoparticles to sensitize cancer cells to radiotherapy. These nanoparticles allow cancerous cells to be killed with less potent radiation and cause less damage to surrounding tissue. [5]


Limitations

Nano-enabled immunotherapy has shown to result in durable responses to cancer; however, only a minority of patients have been treated through this method. Nano-enabled immunotherapy is a relatively new idea for cancer treatment, and further research is being done to make this method more accessible to various communities. New and more effective ways to administer chemotherapy and radiation therapy through nanotechnology are continually being discovered; therefore, it is not in use for the majority of cancer patients. [6]


Topics for Further Research

  • Nanotechnology and cell identification

  • Surface Materials for nanoparticles

  • Cancer diagnostic through nanotechnology

  • Photodynamic therapy




References

N. (2017, August 8). [Digital image]. Retrieved August 06, 2020, from https://www.cancer.gov/nano/cancer-nanotechnology/treatment#:~:text=Nanotechnology%20offers%20the%20means%20to,and%20other%20current%20treatment%20modalities.

[1] Nanotechnology Cancer Therapy and Treatment. (n.d.). Retrieved August 06, 2020, from https://www.cancer.gov/nano/cancer-nanotechnology/treatment

[2] What is Cancer?: Forms & Oncology Treatment Options. (2020, July 01). Retrieved August 06, 2020, from https://www.cancercenter.com/what-is-cancer

[3] Cancer Facts & Figures 2020. (n.d.). Retrieved August 06, 2020, from https://www.cancer.org/research/cancer-facts-statistics/all-cancer-facts-figures/cancer-facts-figures-2020.html

[4] Cancer Treatments. (n.d.). Retrieved August 06, 2020, from https://www.cancerquest.org/patients/treatments

[5] Benefits of Nanotechnology for Cancer. (n.d.). Retrieved August 06, 2020, from https://www.cancer.gov/nano/cancer-nanotechnology/benefits

[6] Cancer & Nanotech. (2017, August 8). Retrieved August 06, 2020, from https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acsnano.6b06655