February 28, 2019

Lighting up colorectal cancer

A nanobeacon imaging agent that binds specifically to colorectal cancer cells may aid the early detection of cancer during colonoscopy.

by Leigh MacMillan

Colonoscopy — a powerful tool for detecting colorectal cancer — relies on the visualization of intestinal changes, such as polyps. Small or flat growths can evade detection and present a particular challenge in patients with chronic inflammatory bowel disease.

Wellington Pham, PhD, and colleagues in Japan, have developed a nanobeacon imaging agent — fluorescent nanospheres coated with a protein that binds specifically to colorectal cancer cells — to aid the early detection of colorectal cancer during colonoscopy.

The researchers used normal and cancer tissues removed from mouse models of human colorectal cancer to validate the nanobeacon’s diagnostic capabilities. The rate of cancer detection was 91 percent, with a 5 percent false positive rate. They further evaluated the agent using normal and tumor tissues removed during colonoscopy from 11 patients and confirmed that the nanobeacon enabled detection of colorectal cancer.

The findings, reported in the European Journal of Pharmaceutics and Biopharmaceutics, support further development of the nanobeacon as a tool to aid cancer detection during colonoscopy.

This work was partially supported by the National Institutes of Health (grants CA160700, CA068485).