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Advancements in Nanotechnology for the Early Diagnosis and Treatment of Lung Cancer

A new review paper looks at the recent development of nanoimaging probes and nanotherapeutics that may help improve outcomes for patients with lung cancer.

Meeri Kim, Contributor
Thursday, November 15, 2018


Early diagnosis of lung cancer is associated with a dramatic increase in survival rate for most patients. However, early stage detection is infrequent and usually serendipitous, encompassing only 15 percent of total cases. Current imaging modalities for diagnosis -- typically chest X-ray, MRI and CT -- suffer from misleading results, false staging and low sensitivity/resolution.

A new review paper published in the Journal of Controlled Release looks at how nanotechnology could improve the imaging and treatment of lung cancer. An interdisciplinary team of researchers from China and Malaysia gives an overview of the current state of nanoimaging probes and nanotherapeutics, how their performance compares to conventional regimens, and the challenges of transitioning these new approaches to the clinic. The paper was published online Oct. 22.

Novel diagnostic probes constructed with nanoparticles have demonstrated enhanced signal intensity, better contrast, and improved biodistribution when combined with conventional imaging tools. Several different types of nanoparticles have been designed and fabricated for lung cancer imaging, with many of them showing promise for early and accurate diagnosis. For instance, gold nanoparticles have several advantages over iodine-based agents for CT imaging, and superparamagnetic iron-oxide nanoparticles can be employed with MRI as ultrasensitive nanoprobes.

A challenge in transitioning these nanoprobes from the laboratory to the clinic lies in proving their safety for use in patients. They would need to be rapidly broken down and eliminated by the body, and should exhibit minimal toxicity to normal cells.

Another area of development has focused on treating lung cancer with nanotherapeutics. Anticancer agents that are delivered inside nanosized carriers have been shown in some studies to more effectively fight the disease due to targeted specific delivery, simultaneous delivery of multiple therapeutic agents, and sustained release of encapsulated agents at the target site for a longer time period.