FIGURE 1 Comparison of size of objects relative to a nanometer. Images on the bottom are examples of objects that often have sizes in the 1–100 nm range.
SOURCES: Barker presentation (July 12, 2010) and NCI (2010b).

already on the market. Several of the first FDA-approved uses of nanotechnology in medicine were for new formulations of standard chemotherapeutic agents to enhance delivery of the drugs to cancer cells and reduce side effects suffered by patients. Researchers have also used nanotechnology to improve contrast materials for imaging tumors. Nanotechnology holds promise for diagnostic tools and multifunctional products such as theranostics, which combine diagnostic tests with therapeutic agents.

A great deal of research funding is currently being devoted to research in nanomedicine, providing ample opportunity for scientific advances and new products. Even so, there are substantial challenges to overcoming clinical research and translational science hurdles. These challenges include

  • Bridging interdisciplinary gaps to gather basic knowledge in order to more effectively design, develop, test, and regulate nanomedicines
  • Developing appropriate standards for testing, manufacturing, and regulation of nanotechnology, and closing current regulation gaps
  • Discerning and balancing the risks and benefits of nanotechnology, as well as conveying these risks and benefits to both policymakers and the public.

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