The use of nanoparticles in improving breast cancer cell detection

As Breast Cancer Awareness Month draws to a close, I would like to take the opportunity to highlight some key ways of supporting research into breast cancer, as well as exciting new developments in the field which are contributing towards the continually improving survival rates. There are many ways to show your support, ranging from purchasing special packs of cancer-suppressing watercress or tickled pink groceries, to hosting Pink Fridays at your workplace. 

Mammography allows breast cancer to be detected up to 3 years before noticeable lumps appear, but unfortunately does not detect 10-25% of tumours, and benign and malignant particles are indistinguishable. New research published this month in Breast Cancer Research discusses the benefits of a fascinating development which shows promise for improving the detection of breast cancer cells. The technique involves the development of tumor-targeted iron-oxide magnetic nanoparticles, which can be detected by superconducting quantum interference device (SQUID) sensors. This allows visualization of the nanoparticles using confocal microscopy, Prussian blue histochemistry and magnetic relaxometry through measurement of the nanoparticles’ “relaxing” fields following a magnetization pulse.

The results suggest that antibody-conjugated magnetic nanoparticles may improve the detection of breast tumor cells in vivo, allowing for rapid, highly sensitive and viable tumor detection, reducing the need for invasive biopsies and thereby minimising discomfort to the patient.


Anita Bock – Assistant Editor

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