Kochi (ISJ) – Indian scientists have claimed discovery of a safer, cheaper diagnosis and treatment of cancer. The process involves turning nanoparticles of calcium phosphate, a biomineral naturally found in human bones, into fully biodegradable radio frequency agents and making them imageable by MRI and CT scans.
"The development of calcium phosphate nanoparticles with imageable properties for drug delivery applications is a major innovation in the quest to develop biodegradable contrast agents for imaging (diagnostic) purposes," said Dr. Shanti Nair, Director of Centre for Nanosciences and Molecular Medicine at the Kochi-based Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences. "Calcium phosphate is naturally found in human bones and is non-toxic and fully biodegradable. Now that its nanoparticles have been made imageable by MRI and CT scans, their accumulation in tumours can be verified and the MR contrast used for image-guided surgical treatment of cancer."
Currently, the most common treatment for cancer involves radiation and use of gamma rays to kill cancer cells. However, this inflicts collateral damage - healthy cells also get destroyed along with cancer cells. Radiation treatment with Cyber-Knife is much more precise, but very expensive. In this situation, the most easily accessible and cheapest cancer treatment available today uses radio frequency (RF) microwaves. But for this method to work, the RF agent should be non-toxic to human body and preferentially accumulated in the tumour. This is where the development of calcium phosphate nanoparticles as a biodegradable RF agent becomes significant.
"The main advantage of calcium phosphate is that our body does not treat it as foreign material, leading to minimum toxicity and immune rejection compared to other engineered nanoparticles which are non-biodegradable. We have made this biomineral imageable using MRI and CT," explained Dr Manzoor Kyakutty, Professor at the Centre for Nanosciences and Molecular Medicine and the project's principal investigator. "It can be guided precisely to cancer tumours, which will enable their treatment under image guidance, using radio waves to heat up and destroy the cancerous cells. We are now conducting large animal studies, and clinical trials will follow."
The team of co-inventors has launched a new company which has already acquired the rights from Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences to bring the product to clinics.
The discovery of RF hyper-thermic property (heat generation under radio waves) of calcium phosphate was by chance. A team of researchers at the Centre while doing experiments to optimize MRI imaging and RF properties of some calcium-containing materials accidentally found that the calcium compound was getting heated up when exposed to radio waves. This led to the optimization of calcium phosphate nanoparticles for RF applications. The scientists enhanced their hyper-thermic properties by doping them with iron nanoparticles having magnetic properties, which also helped in magnetic resonance imaging.
Source: Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences
Image courtesy: Wikimedia Commons