Nanoparticles could monitor cancer progress

In collaboration with the Press Association

US researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are developing tiny particles that could "stick" to cancer cells and cause them to show up on MRI scans.

This could, in theory, allow doctors to track treatment progress, or alert them if the cancer starts to spread.

At present, standard scans and blood tests only give doctors a limited view of whether treatments are effective.

The team hopes the new implants could eventually provide a wealth of information to ensure more successful diagnosis and progress of treatments.

Grace Kim, who is involved in the research project, explained to BBC News: "When you're cooking a turkey, you can take the temperature with a thermometer - but with something like this, you can not only find out the temperature, but the moisture, saltiness and whether there's enough rosemary." However, the treatment has yet to be tested in patients. The scientists are keen to establish how to ensure the implants stay in the body for significant periods so that they can be tracked via a MRI scan.

Cancer Research UK medical director Professor John Toy said: "It would be extremely helpful to know at the start of treatment that anti-cancer drugs are indeed reaching their target or, if not, that other treatment is required.

"If it were possible to monitor intimately the response of cancer cells to treatment, this would offer valuable detailed information on the effectiveness of treatment.

"But, of course, there are millions of cancer cells in tumours and technology has a long, long way to travel yet before it can offer these desirable attributes."