The destination of the funding will be a new project led by Professor Nick Stone, Professor of Biomedical Imaging and Biosensing at the University of Exeter. The aim of the project will be to use the emerging field of nanotheranostics, combining therapy and diagnosis, to identify and treat life-threatening diseases in a single, effective non-surgical procedure.
According to the World Health Organisation, non-infectious diseases kill 40 million people each year which is equivalent to a staggering 70% of all deaths globally. Of these diseases, those that affect the cardiovascular system such as coronary heart disease and cancers are the most common. Traditional diagnosis and treatments for life-threatening diseases have relied upon X-ray screening. With regards to cancer; however, current diagnostic techniques that use X-rays often fail to measure the early changes in the makeup of abnormal cells with sufficient accuracy or sensitivity that is required to make an accurate diagnosis. So what can be done? The answer might just lie in a new medical buzzword called “Nanotheranostics".
Nanotheranostics derives from the term “theranostics" which refers to a form of diagnostic testing that allows a patient to receive selective targeted therapy. Cancer nanotheranostics aims to combine imaging and cancer therapy using nanotechnology. By engineering nanomaterials to interact with light and cancer cells at a nanometre scale level, the effectiveness and specificity of cancer therapy could be substantially increased
The new research project will use light to identify early changes within the body and deliver treatment or monitor its progression, without resorting to invasive tissue removing techniques. Harnessing the principle of nanotechnology, the group will develop a new approach for assembling tiny gold nanoparticle clusters within the body that will allow selective targeting of diseased cells, avoiding healthy tissue. One of the key technologies behind the project, Spatially Offset Raman Spectroscopy (SORS) originates from the Central Laser Facility and was jointly developed for cancer diagnostic applications in partnership with the University of Exeter.
Lead researcher, Professor Nick Stone said “The new approach should enable us to not only find and identify the disease, but also to tailor the treatment to the individual patient and then to provide it, all in one safe procedure."