While some are touting the use of nano-rays to fight disease, others are concerned about their connection to the cancer known as mesothelioma.
This past week, Nanobiotix, a fledgling nanomedicine company, released findings in regards to results obtained during pre-clinical trials that tested the company’s patented nanoXray™ therapeutics platform to fight cancerous tumors.
The pre-clinical investigation, which was performed at Institute Gustav Roussy in Villejuif, France, showed that an intratumoral injection of NBTXR3 nanoparticles and activated via standard radiation therapy led to complete tumor regression in mice at 60 days, compared to zero tumor regression in mice treated with x-ray only or NBTXR3 only.
Researchers at Nanobiotix tout the usefulness of nano-rays as part of a new innovation in cancer therapy, namely a technology that kills cancer cells only and not the healthy tissue that surrounds them. “We are extremely excited by these preclinical results, which demonstrate the novel therapeutic effect of nanoparticles on human tumor models," said Laurent Lévy, Ph.D., President and CEO of Nanobiotix and Co-President of the French Technology Platform on Nanotechnology (FTPN).
However, nanotechnology has also been in the negative limelight as studies suggest that some carbon nanotubes can be as harmful as asbestos when inhaled in sufficient quantities. Researchers who took part in a 2008 study conducted in the United Kingdom concluded that carbon nanotubes and mesothelioma, historically known as an asbestos-caused cancer, may indeed have a connection.
The study, led by Professor Kenneth Donaldson at the University of Edinburgh, demonstrated that long, thin, multi-walled carbon nanotubes that look like asbestos fibers also behave like asbestos fibers, calling into question the safety of nanotechnology. Carbon nanotubes are atom-thick sheets of graphite formed into cylinders. They come in many forms and shapes and, like asbestos, the sharp, thin type seem to be the most hazardous.
"More research is still needed if we are to understand how to use these materials as safely as possible," argues Professor Donaldson.
Physicians like Dr. David Sugarbaker, founder of the International Pleural Mesothelioma Program, a research and clinical project that is centered on providing mesothelioma information and finding new and better treatment options for patients with pleural mesothelioma, say the jury is still out on the safety of carbon nanotubes and that they will continue to monitor the current research before dubbing nanotechnology the newest miracle in cancer treatment.