Researchers Find New Methods to Detect Cancer

Anti-Epcam SWCNTOne of CINS’s primary areas of research is featured in a recent scholarly article, which has been accepted for publication in The Journal of Biomedical Optics.

CINS researchers collaborating on this project were Zeid Nima, Dr. Meena Mahmood, Alokita Karmakar, Thikra Mustafa, Dr. Shawn Bourdo, Dr. Yang Xu, and Dr. Alex Biris. The article, titled “Single-walled carbon nanotubes as specific targeting and Raman spectroscopic agents for detection and discrimination of single human breast cancer cells,” details advances in utilizing nanomaterials for the detection of breast cancer.

The goal for this study: to search out cancer cells. CINS research showed that certain functionalized nanomaterials (anti-EpCAM antibodies) will bind exclusively with cancer cells, while leaving normal cells alone. Using Raman Spectrscopy, these functionalized nanoparticles can then be visualized, thus revealing the presence of cancer cells. This study showed that the anti-EpCAM antibodies were able to find and “flag” cancer cells, even when there is just a single cancer cell among a thousand normal cells.

CINS researchers have been working on this and related projects for three years, and have published various articles detailing their findings. This particular study is important due to its implications for the early diagnosis of cancer: because the anti-EpCAM antibodies can detect even a few cells, this methodology allows for the detection of cancer at its earliest stages, leading to early treatment of the disease.

What’s next in terms of cancer research at CINS? Researchers are already working on novel approaches utilizing carbon nanotubes as agents for destroying cancer cells through thermal ablation and drug delivery.

This area of research is funded by a grant from the Arkansas Science and Technology Authority and with the support of the U.S. Army Telemedicine & Advanced Technology Research Center.

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