To detect cancer at its earliest stages, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) has invested 144 million dollars to develop and apply nanotech-nology to cancer. The NCI envisions that within the next 5 years nan-otechnology will result in significant advances in early detection, molecular imaging, assessment of therapeutic methods, and prevention and control of cancer. Cancer is an abnormal growth of cells anywhere in the body. It occurs when the genes in a cell allow it to split (make new cells) without control. There are many kinds of cancer, because there are many kinds of cells in the body. Some cancers form growths called tumors, while others, like cancers of the blood (leukemias), travel all over the body. Cancers may harm the body in two ways. They may replace normal cells with cells that do not work properly and they may kill normal cells.

Nanotechnology offers a wealth of tools that are providing cancer researchers with new and innovative ways to diagnose and treat cancer. Already, nanotechnology has been used to create new and improved ways to find small tumors through imaging. Nanoscale drug delivery devices

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are being developed to deliver anticancer therapeutics specifically to tumors.

Nanotechnology provides opportunities to prevent cancer progression. For example, nanoscale systems, because of their small dimensions, could be applied to stop progression of certain types of breast cancers.

Examples of nanotechnology in cancer research today include the following:

• Nanoscale cantilevers and nanowire sensors that can detect a cancer from a single cell.

• Nanoparticles can aid in imaging malignant lesions, so surgeons know where the cancer is, and how to remove it.

• Nanoshells can kill tumor cells selectively, so patients do not suffer terrible side effects from healthy cells being destroyed.

• Dendrimers can sequester drugs to reduce side effects and deliver multiple drugs to maximize therapeutic impact.

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