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Alexander Dunn

Year of Award: 2013 Award State: New South Wales Health And Medicine > Cancer And Oncology
Science > General
The Leslie (Les) J. Fleming Churchill Fellowship to study the magnetic field induced release of cancer drugs at the Royal Institution of Great Britain - UK
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The key to good prognosis for cancer patients is early diagnosis and treatment. The Cancer Institute estimates that if cancer is caught in Stage 1, patient survival rate can be as high as 84%,whereas if it is undetected until Stage 4, survival rate falls to 14%. This is because as cancers develop and metastasise, the likelihood of successful treatment or surgery is severely reduced.

Presently, one of the most common mechanisms of cancer treatment is the use of drugs - such as chemotherapy - which attack the cancerous cells. However, many of these modern drugs have adverse side effects when they are administered in their current systemic manner.

My project looks at the development of a novel nanomaterial that can address these problems. The purpose of the nanomaterial is to improve our ability to detect cancer in its early stages and subsequently treat the cancer. The nanomaterial can achieve this goal by acting as a a phenomenon that requires the nanomaterial to store the toxic cancer drugs in an inert state until release is desired at a specific time and location. Controllable drug delivery relies on the use of a stimulus that can be controlled by the administering doctor which initiates the release of these drugs from their inert state at the cancer site. Generally speaking, this nanomaterial consists of a nanoparticle conjugate. A polymer is a long chain organic molecule made up of many repeating subunits. A nanoparticle is a solid particle with a diameter between 1 and 100 nm.

In this field of research, the use of magnetic induction as a drug release stimulus is gaining much interest, and here lies the core of this project. Magnetic induction is a physical phenomenon in which a magnetic material releases heat in response to the presence of a high frequency alternating magnetic field. This phenomenon allows us to direct an alternating magnetic field to a specific part of the body (that is, the cancer site), and subsequently induce a temperature change within the magnetic nanoparticles located at that site in a desired timeframe. This temperature change can in turn be used to initiate release of the drugs, resulting in temporally and spatially controlled drug delivery. Ultimately, this allows us to target specific sites within the body without damaging healthy tissue.

Cancer is usually detected and characterised using medical imaging techniques such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI); the quality of the diagnosis is dependent upon the quality of the image. Introduction of a contrast agent that interacts with the physical phenomena of the imaging modality allows us to create a clearer image of the cancer tissue – MRI contrast agents are often associated with magnetic nanomaterials.

The Leslie (Les) J. Fleming Churchill Fellowship allowed me to travel to the United Kingdom and Germany to study magnetic induction for these biomedical applications. Most significantly this involved laboratory research at the Healthcare Biomagnetics Laboratory at the Royal Institution of Great Britain. This also involved attending conferences and meetings with various industry and academic experts in the field around the UK and Germany.

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