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Cancer to be targeted by nanotechnology

A new treatment has been developed to transport 'tumour busting' genes selectively to cancer cells, according to a recent study

Cancer Research UK scientists have used nanotechnology to deliver very small particles of anti-cancer genes to tumours in mice, leaving healthy cells unharmed. Once taken up, these enclosed genes produce proteins that kill the cancer.

Previous studies have shown that this nanotechnology can shrink tumours and cure around 80 per cent of the cases treated.

This type of treatment is of particular value to the people with cancers that are inoperable due to their proximity to vital organs, like the brain or lungs. These cancers are also often associated with poor survival. Nanotechnology may also assist in cases where cancers have spread.

The author of the study, Dr Andreas Schatzlein based at London's School of Pharmacy said: "Gene therapy has a great potential to create safe and effective cancer treatments but getting the genes into cancer cells remain one of the big challenges in this areas.

"This is the first time that nanoparticles have been shown to target tumours in such a selective way – it is an exciting step forward. We hope this therapy will be used to treat cancer patients in clinical trials in a couple of years."

Traditional chemotherapy indiscriminately kills cells in the affected area of the body, which can cause side effects like fatigue, hair loss or nausea. It is hoped that gene therapy will have fewer side-effects by targeting only cancer cells.

10th March 2009

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