Research review: Are nanoparticles safe for personalized cancer care?

Every patient’s cancer is unique, which is why the healthcare industry—including both the oncology and radiology professions—have placed an increased emphasis on personalized cancer care.

One promising area of research into this patient-specific strategy is the utilization of nanotechnology to treat and monitor the disease more effectively. But first, researchers need to determine both the positive and negative effects of certain inorganic nanoparticles used in potential cancer treatments on the human body, according to Emily Ehlerding, MD, of the University of Wisconsin in Madison, and her co-authors of a research review recently published in the journal Advanced Science.

“Due to fast and high uptake in the reticuloendothelial system (e.g. liver and spleen), nanoparticles with large particle size or heavy metal components have provoked increased long-term toxicity concerns. Thus, most nanoparticles that have found their way into human clinical trials have been limited to those which are organic- or polymeric-based,” they wrote. “Recent preclinical research has shown the usefulness of inorganic platforms in cancer theranostics. However, only those with biodegradable or renal clearable properties have reasonable chances for potential clinical translation.”

Ehlerding and her fellow researchers performed a literature review of existing evidence regarding the development and safety of inorganic nanoparticles in cancer patients. They found that while many advancements have been made in creating nanoparticles from biodegradable substances like iron or silica that occur naturally as trace elements within the body, progress has also been made in inorganic nanoparticle research, including recent studies into the utilization of quantum dots—or ultra-small inorganic nanoparticles less than 10 nanometers in size which can naturally be cleared through the renal system after administration—in imaging procedures and image-guided surgery.

"Although toxicity concerns still remain as the major barriers to further translation of inorganic nanoparticles from bench to the bedside, progress has been made in demonstrating the reduced toxicity effects by engineering biodegradable and renal clearable nanoparticles while maintaining their desirable imaging or therapeutic functionalities,” the authors concluded. “Personalized treatments are not so much a dream as a real possibility with the great advances that have been made in the field of nano-oncology. We believe inorganic nanoparticles with biodegradable and renal clearable properties could hold great potential to revolutionize future cancer diagnosis and therapy.”

Read the full review article here.