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New Nanomaterial Could Lead to Enhanced Detection and Treatment of Breast Cancer

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A new study that shares the discoveries made by an international team of scientists from the United Kingdom, Denmark, Brazil, and Germany as they attempt to develop a new detection tool and treatment technology for breast cancer patients.

The study’s findings were published in the Journal of Alloys and Compounds. Present diagnostic techniques such as mammograms can only detect between 65% and 95% of tumors, and developing better ways of enhancing detection is of primary concern; for if not detected and treated early enough, breast cancer can spread to other areas of the body, increasing the likelihood that the disease will become fatal.

The cohort of scientists have been using the Polaris instrument at the ISIS pulsed neutron and muon source at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (Harwell Oxford, UK) to develop a new bio-nanocomposite that they hope will ultimately lead to earlier detection, and more successful treatment, of breast cancer.

The new substance harps on the fact that cancer cells attract a molecule called hydroxyapatite, which is a constituent of bones. The researchers are developing magnetic nanoparticles covered with a biocompatible polymer that includes hydroxyapatite nanocrystals. When inserted into the body, these nanoparticles should travel directly to cancer cells, and once they do, they make it a lot easier to detect the tumor on an MRI scan.

Moreover, not only do the nanoparticles help to identify tumors, but they could also help to obstruct the metastasis to other areas of the body, as hydroxyapatite is known to stifle and restrain that aspect of tumor activity.

The next phase of study is to integrate antitumor agents into the nanoparticles. The magnetic structure of the nanoparticles means that they can be directed to the site of the tumor by using magnets outside of the body. If antitumor drugs can be supplemented to the nanoparticles, then they can be used to deliver the treatment directly to the tumor, maximizing the effectiveness of the treatment and significantly curtailing the risk of harmful side effects, for instance picture a fleet of tiny drones, delivering anticancer weapons right where they are needed.

The research is still in its early stages, and thus more study is required, according to the scientists, before it can be developed into a treatment option. 

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