Sylvia M Findlay at Frost & Sullivan finds inter-disciplinary communication a key stumbling point in the replacement of personalised oncology
‘Cancer’, as a word, undeniably triggers fear in the vast majority of the population. Caused by various molecular alterations and genetic instability, the current diagnostic and prognostic techniques are insufficient to result in comprehensively effective treatment. Inefficient diagnostic techniques only prevent patients from receiving medical intervention before the cancer cells metastasize. At the time of detection, almost 60 per cent of patients suffering from lung, breast, prostate and ovarian cancers have already metastasized. Accurate diagnosis and prognosis, reduction in the adverse side effects of chemotherapy and better tumour imaging for early detection are some of the key challenges currently facing oncology. Providing diagnosis and treatment tailored to the individual requirement, eventually leading to an era of personalised oncology, is a fundamental aim. Mounting numbers of cancer cases along with flawed diagnosis and prognosis options, have led researchers to utilise novel technologies in medical oncology – notably the use of nanoparticles to target tumour antigens and tumour vasculature.
Recent advances in genomics and proteomics, whereby a huge amount of genetic information is available to scientists, has been one of the crucial factors in the development of nanotechnology in cancer therapy. The complexities of cancer can be effectively studied using nanotechnology, as it permits the integration of proteomics with cancer research. Nanotechnology offers distinct advantages compared to both the clinical and basic research frontiers. The development of information technology has resulted in the increase in nanotechnology-based applications, particularly in oncology.
Advances in nanotechnology raise hopes for accurate diagnosis and open the avenue for personalised oncology to more effectively diagnose and treat individual cancer patients. In addition, researchers are vying to create a revolution in oncology by introducing ‘predictive oncology’. This is likely to predict the disease development, progression and therapy with the help of genetic and molecular markers. An entirely new field of science, predictive oncology is bound to change the landscape of medical oncology significantly.
Cancer nanotechnology encompasses the broad applications of medicine, engineering and molecular imaging. Nanoparticles have been found to possess certain unique optical, structural, electronic and magnetic properties that are not found in bulk solids or other molecules. These properties have been utilised in cancer detection, diagnosis and therapy, where the nanoparticles are linked to proteins, peptides and nucleic acids. Metal, semiconductors and polymeric nanoparticles are used in various applications of cancer detection, diagnosis and therapy. Some of these novel nanoparticles are being studied for molecular profiling and biological assays.