New Grant for Nano-Technology Cancer Research

A Houston-based company has new funding from the National Institutes of Health to continue research in targeting tiny breast cancer tumors with nano-technology.

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The $2.9 million grant to Fairway Medical Technologies will pay for what sounds like something from a science fiction novel, the development of an optoacoustic imaging system enhanced with gold nanorods. Company President Jim Meador says it may sound made up, but the system can help detect breast cancer tumors that are up to five times smaller than current detection levels. They pulse laser light in the near infrared spectrum into the breast tissue.

But the system doesn't stop there. Pulsing the laser light into the body isn't enough to do the job. This is where nanotechnology comes in. Meador says they use gold nanorods to emit a sound wave that can be picked up by ultrasound detectors attached to the tissue.

This method could allow doctors to detect tumors as small as two millemeters. Current mammography can detect tumors at about eight millimeters. Meador says this method demonstrates the possibility of much earlier detection which is key in the treatment of breast cancer. He says the use of nanorods also means scientists could potentially tag a tumor with nanoparticles and target treatments directly into the malignant tissue. Right now the optoacoustic system is still being tested on animals. Fairway could begin human trials in conjunction with UTMB Galveston by the end of the year.

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