Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Nanomaterials have been explored as reagents to deliver medicines to disease sites in vivo, to detect the presence of disease, or as contrast agents to allow the imaging of target tissues. A new class of multifunctional materials combines elements of sensing, imaging, and/or drug delivery in a single system: theranostics can simultaneously diagnose/detect disease status and provide a means to treat the pathology, especially in metastatic cancer. This session presented perspectives on these concepts from three leaders in this emerging area and highlighted some promising new approaches in preclinical development.
Andrew Tsourkas (University of Pennsylvania) introduced theranostic nanoparticles and described strategies being developed to improve their tissue penetration and targeting capabilities. He explained that, although many nanoparticles being tested in preclinical studies include a targeting agent to confer specificity for a disease site while minimizing toxicity in healthy tissues, these benefits are not always realized in practice. Next, Ester Kwon (University of California, San Diego) talked about synthetic biomarkers for cancer detection and diagnosis. In her work, diagnostic nanomaterials have been engineered to target the tumor microenvironment and report pathogenic protease activity for the detection of cancer. These nanomaterial sensors can be tools for precision medicine to stratify patients for molecularly targeted therapies. In his talk on immune theranostics, Evan Scott (Northwestern University) presented short- and long-term controlled delivery systems that he and his colleagues have engineered to identify and quantify immune cells after intracellular delivery both in vitro and in vivo. He explained that, because of the complex responses generated by the stimulation of diverse immune cell populations during immunotherapy, it is critical to monitor which cells are targeted during treatment to understand the mechanisms behind elicited responses.
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