Cancer is one of the most prevalent causes of death in the United States. In 2018, it is estimated that 1,735,350 new cases will be diagnosed in this country, causing many to seek out painful and expensive treatments. Chemotherapy and radiation are the most common forms of cancer treatments, but they can have absolutely devastating effects on the body. However, recent experiments in the theranostics field have discovered a new form of diagnosis and treatment that is not only successful against preventing tumor growth, it has almost no harmful side effects.
Theranostics is a revolutionary new field of medicine that combines specific targeted therapy based on specific targeted diagnostic tests (therapy + diagnostics = theranostics). It allows doctors to diagnose and treat each patient’s cancer individually and precisely through the use of nanoscience. For example, a specific diagnostic test will show a particular molecular target on a tumor, then a specific therapy agent targets that receptor on the tumor alone, providing an incredibly precise form of treatment that affects only the region that possesses cancer. This contemporary treatment removes the need to flood the entire body and all of its systems through the use of chemicals and radiation.
When Elements Leap From Industry To Medicine
Employing the use of theranostics, researchers in the Molecular Imaging and Nanotechnology Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have discovered the medical benefits of molybdenum. The element has been used for a variety of purposes in the last 200 years, from manufacturing light bulbs to improving the efficiency of battery power. Now, it seems, it serves a vital medical function.
The intelligent theranostatic agent of molybdenum-based polyoxometalate clusters (denoted as Ox-POM) work like nano-robots when they are inserted within a living organism. One of the main researchers during the study, Dalong Ni, explains their process.
“Unlike traditional chemotherapy, the designed intelligent Ox-POM clusters, obtained from an easy, fast, and large-scale synthesis process, will only cause damage in tumor areas but not to the normal tissues and organs. Importantly, like most clinical imaging agents, these nanoclusters are mainly excreted through the kidneys, making them highly biocompatible and reducing the potential toxic effects on patients.”
The clusters were used to treat tumor-bearing mice and immediately stopped tumor growth without subsequent recurrence for up to 2 months.
The fact that the drug is naturally excreted through the kidneys and is localized only to the cancerous area is absolutely revolutionary considering how many people suffer from the agonizing side effects of chemo and radiation therapy — it may be too soon to tell if it can fully stop the occurrence of cancer, but it will certainly provide a much more manageable option for treatment.