Mesothelioma is an aggressive form of cancer that is often difficult to treat as it is conventionally hard to identify before the disease advances to later stages. Nanotechnology company CytoViva and German researchers have collaborated to solve this dilemma. They experimented with hyperspectral imaging on known cancer patients in order to improve diagnostic efforts.
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Advances in Treating Mesothelioma with Nanotechnology
Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer that attacks the thin tissue lining organs known as the mesothelium, and it has always been difficult to treat. Most often associated with exposure to asbestos, this type of cancer is usually not diagnosed until its later stages, making successful treatment even less hopeful.
New research in using nanotechnology provides hope for patients without effective mesothelioma treatment. Nanoparticles are being used to make earlier, more accurate diagnoses and also to better deliver targeted drugs to cancer cells. These developments can prolong lives and even send mesothelioma into remission.
Treatment Challenges for Mesothelioma
The most common type of this rare cancer affects the pleura, the lining of the lungs and chest cavity. Because of its location, the symptoms of pleural mesothelioma mimic conditions that are more common, like lung cancer and pneumonia. Even among people exposed to asbestos mesothelioma is rare, so many patients are initially misdiagnosed with these more likely conditions.
“By the time mesothelioma is diagnosed in a patient, the damage from asbestos has likely been accumulating for decades”
By the time mesothelioma is diagnosed in a patient, the damage from asbestos has likely been accumulating for decades and the cancer is often at stage III or IV. Mesothelioma treatment at these stages is difficult. The health of the patient may limit options like surgery.
Chemotherapy, which is not tumor-specific, may cause too many side effects for the patient to withstand. Metastatic cancer may be impossible to target with any hope of complete elimination. Most treatments at these later stages are palliative.
Earlier, More Accurate Diagnoses Thanks to Nanotechnology
One step toward better treatment for mesothelioma is to be able to diagnose it more accurately.
Even when pathologists look at the cells from a tumor biopsy, distinguishing mesothelioma from other types of cancer, like lung cancer, is challenging. Nanotechnology company CytoViva, worked with German researchers to use nano-imaging for a more accurate and quicker way to diagnose biopsied tissue as mesothelioma or another kind of cancer.Nanotechnology company #CytoViva, worked with German researchers to use nano-imaging for a more accurate and quicker way to diagnose biopsied tissue as #mesothelioma or another kind of cancer.Click To Tweet
The researchers used hyperspectral imaging to produce tiny, high-definition images of sample tissues. The images were less than 100 nanometers across. Putting multiple images together the researchers created larger images of biopsied tissues with ultra-high contrast. They rendered images for thirty different sample tissues, each from patients known to have mesothelioma or another cancer. They also made control images from healthy tissue.
The images were compiled into a spectral library and used to diagnose tissue samples from other patients, also already known to have certain types of cancer. A match represented a diagnosis for that test sample. The results of the study found that the technique produced accurate and quick diagnostic results.
Using Nanoparticles to Deliver Targeted Mesothelioma Treatment
Earlier diagnoses for mesothelioma will offer patients more mesothelioma treatment options. However, the treatments also need to be improved.
One major problem with all types of cancers is using chemotherapy. Most chemotherapy drugs are administered by intravenous fluid and target all fast-growing cells in the body. This results in terrible side effects for most patients. If the drugs could be delivered in a more targeted way, they might kill cancer cells and leave other, healthy cells alone.
“the treatments also need to be improved.”
In one study, researchers used nanoparticles and antibodies to deliver drugs directly to tumor cells. Using fluorescent tags that were activated when cancer cells died, the researchers were able to visually confirm that the drugs were being delivered by the nanoparticles right to the cancer cells. Not only does the targeted drug delivery by the nanoparticles offer an exciting new treatment option, the ability to track the progress of the treatment is also important.
Other researchers are using nanoparticles to deliver microRNA, or miRNA, to tumor cells. Using antibodies again, the researchers targeted mesothelioma tumors. The miRNA was released into cancer cells and inserted genes that slowed and stopped cell growth. The results of this research show that the tumor-suppressing genes inhibit the growth of tumors, both in vitro and in vivo.
The technology was even used on one patient with late-stage mesothelioma and it eliminated nearly all of the cancer cells. The miRNA-filled nanoparticles have also been used to successfully treat dogs with brain cancer and boast high survival rates. The new technique for genetically targeting cancer cells demonstrates a promising treatment for mesothelioma as well as other types of cancer that are difficult to treat.
Mesothelioma has always been a devastating type of cancer diagnosis. Survival times are low and prognoses are rarely positive. Nanotechnology has many applications, but being able to use nanoparticles to diagnose and treat this aggressive and deadly type of cancer represents a hopeful time in cancer research.