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Posted: December 9, 2008
New EU nanotechnology project NANOTHER to design cancer-fighting nanoparticles
(Nanowerk News) A new European research project will use the latest techniques in nanotechnology to design nanoparticles capable of detecting and locating tumours. Once located, these super-small 'nanites' will also have the capacity to attack and neutralise the tumour. The NANOTHER project ('Integration of novel nanoparticle based technology for therapeutics and diagnosis of different types of cancer') is supported by the EU under the Seventh Framework Programme with EUR 8.5 million in funding.
Cancer, or the 'big C' as it is sometimes referred to, is one of the major killers in Europe today. Data show that close to 3.2 million people in the EU are diagnosed with this disease each year. Despite the recent progress made in tackling cancer, the road ahead for researchers is an arduous one. The EU is, nevertheless, determined to find a solution; it aims to recruit the emerging discipline of nanotechnology in the fight against cancer. NANOTHER is a project that meets the objective.
Nanomedicine, the use of nanotechnology in the field of medicine, has yet to be fully exploited. What the researchers hope to do is develop a system whereby cancer-treatment drugs can be delivered in a more effective manner. For example, higher dosages could be delivered in a more targeted manner to the tumour cells, allowing for an overall reduction in the dosage of pharmaceutical drugs used.
The added benefit is a reduction of side effects that emerge when the existing chemotherapeutic and radio-therapeutic methods are used. Nanomedicine experts postulate that these side effects, together with the low solubility of the medicines, are what sometimes impede or limit the extensive use of current treatment against cancer.
What is unique about NANOTHER is that it will use two types of synthetic nanoparticles: polymeric nanoparticles and magnetic nanoparticles. Polymeric nanoparticles will contain molecules that will help it recognise tumour cells and direct the medicine to the affected areas. Magnetic nanoparticles will also help in the identification of tumours, and assist in their elimination by increasing the temperature.
Scientists say that nanoparticles have a very high surface area to volume ratio, effectively helping fuel diffusion, particularly at high temperatures.
The 4-year NANOTHER project involves 18 research partners from Europe and abroad, with GAIKER-IK4 Technological Centre (Spain) at the helm as coordinator. The group has extensive experience in the research and development of tools for the early detection of cancer and other illnesses.
Other project participants include ALMA Consulting (France), the Technology Education Institute of Athens (Greece), Argus (Italy), AHAVA (Israel), Feyecon (the Netherlands) and Hameln (Slovakia).