Most, if not all, nanoparticle structures currently investigated for delivery of cancer therapeutics also have the capacity to be detected or modified to contain a detectable agent that could be simultaneously used for cancer diagnosis. For example, PAMAM folate-dendrimers that contain contrast media for detection by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are effectively targeted to cancer cells that overexpress the high affinity folate receptor.34 Gadolinium ion-dendrimer nano-particles are readily detected by CT imaging and appear to provide several advantages over previous methodologies.35 PAMAM dendrimer nanoparticles covalently coupled with a fluorescent label can be visualized as sites of increased retention.36 Any strategy to produce nanoparticles that combines diagnostic and therapeutic elements, however, must consider potential conflicting aspects. Introduction of some heterocyclic anti-cancer molecules may act to quench fluorescent properties and the capacity to detect fluorescent labels.

Some nanoparticles are particularly promising for cancer diagnosis because of their exceptional properties of detection using current radiographic and magnetic methods. Some new materials being prepared as nanoparticles will provide the potential for visualization using novel imaging methods that may lead to greater selectivity of signal and reduce false positives.37 For example, quantum dots associated with metastatic cancer cells can be visualized using fluorescence emissionscanning microscopy.38 Similarly, lipid-encapsulated liquid perfluorocarbon contrast media at the site of a tumor can be detected by ultrasonic acoustic transmission.39 It is also possible to functio-nalize materials such as quantum dots to incorporate materials that can be photo-activated to enhance their activity or detection.23

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