Tackling Cancer with Nanoparticles
Ed Flynn has devoted his career to tracking down cancer before it spreads. After his wife survived breast cancer, Flynn, a nuclear physicist of 50 years, refocused his research on using magnetic nanoparticles as a more sensitive detection method for cancer.
The collaboration between Flynn’s private company Senior Scientific and CINT scientists is leading to groundbreaking technology that can detect breast, prostate, and other cancers with significantly greater sensitivity than is now possible. And early detection is crucial in the fight against cancer.
How can nanoparticles improve detection?
These magnetic nanoparticles can help detect the presence of cancer with much greater sensitivity than current methods, reducing detection times by years.
How it works
The key to Flynn’s research is magnetic nanoparticles. CINT makes specialized nanoparticles, about 10,000 times smaller than a human hair, using magnetized iron oxide. These nontoxic nanoparticles are attached to cancer-specific antibodies and injected into the patient’s body. The antibodies, with the hitchhiking nanoparticles, bind to receptors on the cancer cells.
CINT researcher Dale Huber is in charge of making specialized nanoparticles for Flynn’s research. To work, each nanoparticle must perform exactly as the next, so CINT carefully produces particles with uniform magnetic strength, size, and coating.
CINT’s specialized nanotechnology instruments are key to characterizing and reproducing these magnetic nanoparticles. These magnetic nanoparticles can help detect the presence of cancer with much greater sensitivity than current methods, reducing detection times by years.
How do SQUIDS find cancer cells
Attaching to cancer cells Flynn’s technology uses specialized sensors, called superconducting quantum interference devices, or SQUIDS, to magnetize and measure the nanoparticles.
To measure the particles (and find the cancer cells), Flynn developed a technique called nanomagnetic relaxometry. The sensor measures a magnetic field released by the tiny nanoparticles after they are magnetized, that is, when they “relax.”
Particles bound to cancer cells have a much different relaxation rate than those not attached.
CINT as a User Facility
CINT’s work with Ed Flynn and Senior Scientific is an example of CINT’s work with private-sector companies and other research laboratories and academia.
As a User Facility, CINT accepts hundreds of user-defined projects each year. These collaborations further the innovation and discoveries in nanotechnology.