Radioactive Nanoparticle Could Improve Cancer Diagnoses

cancer diagnostic test cover

Isotopia Molecular Imaging, an Israeli company, is developing a radioactive marker made of gold nanoparticles to detect cancer more accurately than with current diagnostic tools.

PET and CT scans are two types of X-ray tests that use small quantities of radioactive materials, called contrast agents, to help visualize and assess organ and tissue function. These tests are currently the most common imaging methods for diagnosing and monitoring cancer.

These scans usually use a contrast agent called fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG), which measures sugar metabolism in cancerous tissue. However, FDG is not able to distinguish between tumors and inflammation, leading to a high rate of false positives where patients are wrongly diagnosed with cancer. This, in turn, can increase expenses for health-care systems.

Isotopia, in collaboration with Bar-Ilan University, hopes to overcome these hurdles with a contrast agent made from gold nanoparticles. The research team found that, compared to healthy cells, cancer cells take up more of the gold nanoparticles. Because of this, the gold nanoparticle contrast agent can identify and track tumors, as well as distinguish between tumor tissue and inflammation. This can help reduce the rate of false positives associated with FDG diagnoses.

Radioactive Marker Could Improve Cancer Diagnoses

“[The technology] will be used in existing PET/CT centers and rely on equipment that’s already in place, so it’s very economical,” said Eli Shalom, CEO of Isotopia.

Cancer diagnostics has become a rapidly growing field. For example, liquid biopsies could offer a non-invasive means of detecting cancer early. HalioDx, on the other hand, is developing a diagnostic tool for detecting cancer that analyzes the tumor microenvironment using immunohistochemistry and advanced digital pathology. Earlier this year, Biocartis and Amgen started a collaboration to create a diagnostic test to identify patients who could benefit from a treatment Amgen is developing for solid tumors.

Cancer is the second most common cause of death worldwide, leading to 8.8 million deaths in 2015. Developing better diagnostic tools is essential to identifying the disease early and making appropriate treatments available to patients on time. While a variety of approaches are being investigated, Isotopia’s collaboration could provide a quick route to improved diagnostics by enhancing existing imaging methods.

Images by RAJ CREATIONZS/Shutterstock

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