A few additional challenges were mentioned by workshop participants but not dwelled on to a large extent. In addition to medicine-based approaches, a major effort in applying nanotechnology to cancer prevention is to use nanomaterials in food packaging to improve food storage so cancer-preventing nutrients in food stay fresher, according to Dr. Hawk. Cookware may also be coated with a “nanoglaze” to prevent toxic by-products of cooking from surfacing onto foods. Industry is also pursuing the development of nano-based food supplements, Dr. Hawk said. As mentioned earlier, others mentioned the need to explain the difference between risks related to nanomaterials in food or in the environment as compared to nanomedicine.
Dr. Barker noted the need for patient privacy protections with personalized nanomedicines, and the major challenge of having clinicians adopt nanotechnologies, once they are on the market. “The biggest barrier we have is convincing our colleagues to use these new interventions, to displace what they know how to do with something that they don’t quite understand,” she said. Reluctance to adopt nanomedicine has delayed its clinical testing, she added, noting the significant challenge of finding clinicians willing to run clinical trials of nanomedicines.
Dr. Li noted the challenge of acquiring sufficient financial funding to develop nanotechnologies and bring them into the clinic. He started a small company to fund the development of a nanomedicine, and although he raised 17 million dollars from private investors that kept him in business for two and half years, once the “dotcom bubble burst,” he said it
was difficult to sustain funding. But according to Dr. Barker, nanotechnology is an area of huge investment internationally, especially by venture capital firms. “It is very exciting to all of us to see this level of interest in terms of the financing world, which will make things happen,” she said. In regards to developing nanomedicines that can prevent cancer, Dr. Hawk claimed that there are major concerns by industry that such a venture will not be profitable because of the long time frames needed to conduct the relevant clinical studies, and because they may not be able to patent their discoveries.