Gold Nanoparticles as Tools for Cancer Diagnosis and Therapy

For the past few decades, gold nanoparticles have been studied for their potential use in cancer diagnosis and therapy due to their high biocompatibility. Gold nanoparticles are small particles ranging from 10 – 100 nm. They can be targeted to the tumor passively via the enhance permeation and retention effect or actively via surface modification for tumor specific receptors. High Z gold nanoparticles have a large k-edge (81 keV) that causes generation of short-range electrons or Auger electrons when interacting with low energy (<150 keV) photons. This photoelectric effect can be utilized as a means to improve CT imaging and tumor identification as well as enhance local tumor radiation doses while sparing healthy tissue. Gold nanoparticles have a long history as vehicles for drug delivery, tumor identification, and radiation dose enhancement that have built stepping stones for future clinical applications.

Dr. Needa Virani is a Post-doctoral Fellow in the Radiation Oncology department at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Harvard Medical School. She has been working in the field of Biomedical Engineering and Nanotechnology with a strong focus on vascular targeted nanoparticles for diagnosis and therapy. Dr. Virani gained her undergraduate degree from the Georgia Institute of Technology researching the use of superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles for atherosclerosis plaque imaging followed by her doctorate at the University of Oklahoma, where she developed the use of single-walled carbon nanotubes for the photothermal abalation of bladder cancer. Her current research focuses on the study of vasculature targeted gold nanoparticles to treat breast and lung cancer via radiation directed vascular disruption. In addition she is interested in the secondary immunologic response generated from the use of nanoparticles and radiation therapy within the tumor as well as at distant metastatic sites.