FIGURE 2 Cancer is a complex, evolving system involving chemical, viral, hormonal, and nutritional inputs. Over time, mutation and selection can lead to a malignant state, but there is insufficient biological understanding of these processes over time, according to Dr. Barker.
SOURCE: Barker presentation (July 12, 2010).
able to capture and deliver the kind of information [needed to effectively diagnose and treat cancer] in any of the technologies we currently use, including our chip technologies, because there is a lot of information being managed by cancer when it takes over a normal [biologic] process,” Dr. Barker said.
Nanotechnology has the capacity to deal with the complexity of cancer, she said, by providing tools that can help elucidate what drives cancer initiation and progression; providing tools that can help define the types and subtypes of cancer and combining measurement of cancer biomarkers that can diagnose cancer with therapies that target the specific disease identified by diagnostic measurements; capturing enough information to diagnose cancer at the earliest possible time; for established disease, defining therapeutic targets and directing agents to those target while sparing normal cells; monitoring the effectiveness of an intervention; and sensing pre-neoplastic changes that may benefit from preventive therapy.
“I see nanotechnology as an enabler of pretty much everything we want to do in terms of delivering information to cancer cells, getting information from cancer cells, and combining what we know about normal cells and what we know about cancer cells to be able to differentiate them,” Dr. Barker said.
Dr. Barker then elaborated, as did others, on what nanotechnology is doing or has the potential to do for the diagnosis, monitoring, treatment, and prevention of cancer.