|A Conversation with Dr. Mauro Ferrari |
Dr. Mauro Ferrari, professor of biomedical engineering and internal medicine, Ohio State University, is a leader in the field of biomedical nanotechnology. Dr. Ferrari is currently working as an expert consultant at NCI's Office of Technology and Industrial Relations to help develop a strategy for incorporating nanotechnology tools into cancer research.
How would you describe the relevance of nanotechnology to cancer researchers?
Nanotechnology provides a new toolkit for investigating critical questions in cancer research. For example, nanoparticles are being used as powerful contrast agents that improve the ability of imaging technologies to detect molecular changes in tumors.
How did you become interested in applying nanotechnology specifically to cancer?
I became interested in applying nanotechnology to cancer because nanodevices are extremely well suited to tracking biological changes associated with cancer. Nanotechnology builds functional entities at the atomic and molecular scales; therefore, it can track cancer progression at the level of the molecule, the cell, and/or the tissue. These characteristics allow nanotechnology to "beat cancer at its own game" by providing multiple opportunities for interfering with cancer growth before the disease can evolve into a life-threatening condition.
What is the most promising near-term application of nanotechnology to cancer?
Nanotechnology has several promising near-term applications in cancer prevention, early detection, imaging, and smart therapeutics. One of the areas that I am particularly optimistic about is the possibility of using nanoparticles to monitor drug response. Nanoparticles can help monitor subtle alterations in tumor biology that track cancer progression and can help establish valid markers of clinical benefit for cancer therapies. In addition, nanotechnology-based diagnostics could significantly advance the early detection of cancer.