Incredible World of Nanomedicine for Cancer Illuminated

Posted on: 03 February 2014

Trinity Event Marked Nano World Cancer Day

The incredible and innovative world of nanomedicine and its exciting potential in improving the diagnoses and treatment of cancer were explored by leading experts in the field at a recent public event, organised by Trinity College Dublin to mark Nano World Cancer Day.

Attendees at the event heard that the special characteristics of nanomaterials have led to an exciting array of new possibilities for developing unique, personalised and targeted methods for diagnosing and treating cancers that complement and enhance existing methods such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. They also provide opportunities for entirely new ways of dealing with cancer.

Dr Adriele Prina-Mello, Senior Research Fellow, NANOMEDICINE and Molecular Imaging Group, School of Medicine, Trinity, explained that the nanometric size of materials used in nanomedicine, which are sometimes just a few atoms in thickness, matches the scale of many biological mechanisms in the human body. This allows nanoparticles and nanomaterials to potentially cross natural barriers to access new areas to deliver cancer therapies. They can also interact with DNA or small proteins at different levels, in blood or within organs, tissues or cells.

Dr Prina-Mello said: “Despite its infancy, Nanomedicine is already providing concrete and significant benefits to patients. It has already been translated into diagnostic mechanisms, innovative therapies and methods for enhanced drug delivery. The event on Nano World Cancer Day helps to shed light on how nanomedicine actually works, its current and potential applications in cancer, the research ongoing in Ireland and how it is bringing us closer to more targeted and personalised cancer therapy.”

Professor Yuri Volkov, Director of Research and Professor of Molecular & Translational Medicine, School of Medicine, Trinity, and one of the speakers at the Nano World Cancer Day event said: “Overall, Nanomedicine has the potential to enable early detection and prevention and to drastically improve diagnosis, treatment and follow-up of many diseases including cancer. One example of the technology’s application within cancer diagnostics is the use of nanoparticles delivered into a tumour which induce the tumour to increase its production of biomarkers. The increased production of these warning indicators will help much earlier detection of the potential spread of a cancer.”

“Another example is the use of iron oxide nanoparticles in cancer imaging. Once they are ‘nano-engineered’ they bind very well to tumours and help to ‘light up’ the tumours under MRI scans making pre-surgery mapping much more accurate. Then, targeted drug delivery and ‘personalised’ therapies can be adopted. For instance, nanoparticles can already be injected into the tumour and then be activated to produce energy and destroy cancer cells locally by magnetic fields, X-Rays or light. The MULTIFUN EU Project, in which Trinity is involved has been funded to develop such a targeted approach by using magnetic fields to generate a localised heat effect where the nano particles are present,” Professor Volkov continued. 
Dr Jacintha O’Sullivan, Non Clinical Associate Professor in Surgery, School of Medicine, Trinity, spoke about combining nanoparticles with novel small molecule inhibitors to improve responses to cancer therapy. She explained: “The encapsulation of existing chemotherapy drugs or genes within nanoparticles allows much more localized delivery with significant reduction of the quantity of drugs administered to the patient and therefore side effects.” 
Speaking about Ireland and Trinity’s place in the current developments within nanomedicine, Professor John O’Leary, Professor of Pathology at Trinity, Consultant Histopathologist at St James’s Hosptial and Director of Pathology at the Coombe Women and Infants University Hospital and Trinity’s Strategic Theme Champion for Cancer said: “Nanomedicine activities in Ireland are a rapidly growing field as there is such huge potential for technological innovation, translation into the market and facilitated translation into clinical practice and patients. Trinity College is leading the translational aspect of these activities having secured significant EU funding for this work and with considerable research activities taking place within the University, its partner hospitals and through spin out projects such as EU FP7 NAMDIATREAM which is a 4 year funded EU project aimed at developing nanotechnological tools for early and ultra-sensitive detection of cancer markers.” 
Nano World Cancer Day is a pan-European initiative of the European Technology Platform for Nanomedicine (ETPN) and takes place in advance of World Cancer Day on 4th February.


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Yolanda Kennedy, Press Officer for the Faculty of Health Sciences, Trinity at or tel: + 353 1 8963551