Nanoparticles may pinpoint, and ultimately, destroy breast tumors

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Newly developed silica nanospheres may perform as ultrasound contrast markers and make tumors more visible to surgeons during breast lumpectomy, according to a team from University of California, San Diego (UCSD).

Although breast-conserving surgery is an appealing option for some women with breast cancer, it can be difficult for surgeons to precisely localize and then remove the entire tumor. Up to 25 percent of lumpectomies require re-excision.

The UCSD researchers, who have developed a method to tag tumors that might reduce the need for follow-up surgeries, presented their work at the AVS Symposium and Exhibition in Tampa, Fla.

Andrew Kummel, PhD, a chemical physicist from UCSD, and colleagues have developed implantable, iron-doped silica nanospheres. The gas-filled nanoparticles help surgeons visualize tumors via contrast-enhanced ultrasound and may increase surgical precision, according to a press release.

Ultimately, the nanoparticles may perform double duty. “We are using these particles for two applications. In the short term, we are injecting them into breast tumors to enable surgeons to halve the number of second surgeries by readily locating the tumors in the operating room with low-power ultrasound imaging. In the long term, we want to inject the particles intravenously, have them stick to the tumors and then ablate the tumors … with high-intensity focused ultrasound,” said Kummel in the release.