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European Biopharmaceutical Review

Small But Effective: Nanoparticles in Cancer Therapies

Ongoing shortcomings in current cancer diagnosis and treatment methods have meant that alternatives are continually being sought for more effective and less toxic treatments, purports Thomas W Rademacher of Midatech

This article investigates the properties of ‘biological’ nanoparticles (nanocells), and how their intrinsic properties can be applied to modern cancer medicine, from their use as imaging agents and drug delivery vehicles to the selected killing of tumour cells by apoptosis, and the prevention of metastasis of cancer cells. Nanocells, with their targeting capacity, size and breadth of properties, provide a new approach to the diagnosis, targeting and treatment of solid tumours.

CANCER:THE UNANSWERED PROBLEM

Cancer is currently the second leading cause of death in both the US and Europe. Global cancer statistics are frightening – 10 million new cases of cancer were reported globally in 2000; however, with an aging population and improved diagnosis, that number is expected to reach 15 million by 2020. Cancer probably shows the highest clinical complexity, with more than 200 known forms of the disease, and often having metastatised by the time a diagnosis is reached.

Although medical research and technological advances have increased our understanding of, and ability to treat many cancers, current therapies – often including a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy and radiotherapy – remain insufficient. Offering more therapeutic options, the advancement of nanotechnology bears the potential to provide an effective answer to the complexity of cancer, and promises tremendous opportunities not only to improve upon existing, well-established treatments, but also to develop new and innovative approaches (1,2).

A number of research groups around the world are designing nanoparticles that have a variety of desirable functions, including the ability to carry molecules (for example drugs, proteins and nucleic acids) into the body, the ability to target these molecules to specific tissues or cells, and physical characteristics that can be used therapeutically. Nanocells combine all of these desirable functions to create a unique and highly versatile technology that promises a range of effective applications in the treatment of cancer.


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Thomas W Rademacher is Professor of Molecular Medicine at University College London Medical School. He obtained a Medical Degree in 1976 and a PhD in Biochemistry in 1980, both at the University of Wisconsin- Madison. He was co-founder and Clinical and Research Director of the Glycobiology Institute, University of Oxford, before moving to University College London in 1991. In 1988, Thomas co-founded Oxford GlycoSciences and has since founded several other biotech spin-outs. In 2000, he entered into a collaboration with the Spanish Research Council (CSIC) to form Midatech Ltd.
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Professor Thomas W Rademacher
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