Neuroblastoma is a form of childhood cancer that in most cases spreads throughout the body before it is detected. It occurs in one of every 100,000 children. Neuroblastoma is worse than many other cancers because it requires large amounts of chemotherapy to cure. Chemotherapy can be very dangerous to the patients that it is used on because of its side effects. Unpleasant side effects such as nausea, vomiting, easy bruising, loss of appetite, fatigue, and fever make the treatment painful, but long term side effects such as nerve damage, kidney and heart problems, damage to lung tissue, infertility, and risk of a second cancer make chemotherapy dangerous to a patient’s permanent health. Specially designed nanoparticles have the ability to cut the amount of chemotherapy needed for the patient to one fifth the original amount.
The nitric oxide injecting nanoparticles do not replace chemotherapy, but they reduce the amount needed to treat the cancer. In the past, the combination between nitric oxide and chemotherapy drugs was used but the method used to distribute the nitric oxide to cancer cells were unstable and toxic. The new drug has a shelf life of over two weeks and completely harmless. The main challenge in developing it was that the nanoparticles could trigger reactions in healthy parts of the body, but the researchers overcame this obstacle. The drug currently reduces the need for chemotherapy to one fifth the original amount, greatly reducing the harmful side effects that a patient could encounter.
This new drug is an example of how nanomedicine is opening doors for cancer and other medical treatment. Dr. Cyrille Boyer, who worked on the development of the drug, says "If we can restore nitric oxide with these nanoparticles this could have implications for all the illnesses associated with nitric oxide deficiencies, including diabetes and neurodegenerative." This nanoparticle and variants of it could have many more applications in the future. Nanotechnology is already having great impacts in medicine even though it is a new field. It is also one of the fastest growing fields, and will have even greater impact in other areas of medicine.