Lab Canada

Physicist pairs with pharmaceutical scientist to design nano-particles for cancer imaging

Toronto, ON – In the drive to improve early detection and treatment of cancer, a pair of Toronto scientists has developed a technology that combines contrast agents with targeted, long-lasting nano-particles for use in multiple medical imaging platforms.

While contrast agents are routinely injected into patients to enhance the quality of medical images, different agents are currently required for various imaging modes (eg, MRI, CT, PET) each with inherent strengths and limitations. By combining more than one contrast agent into a nano-particle for use in multiple types of imaging, not only are physicians and researchers able to use lower doses of contrast agents (with lower toxicity) but the nano-particle also enables targeted delivery to, and retention by, specific tumours.

This nano-particle technology comes from the labs of two leading scientists in distinct yet complementary disciplines in the evolution of medical imaging – biophysics and pharmacy:

– Dr David Jaffray is a senior scientist in the division of biophysics and bioimaging at the Ontario Cancer Institute, head of the radiation physics department at Princess Margaret Hospital and a professor of radiation oncology and medical biophysics at the University of Toronto; and

– Dr Christine Allen is an associate professor in the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy at the University of Toronto (currently on sabbatical at the STTARR Innovation Centre at University Health Network).

“Nano-particle technology enables us to route the contrast agent differently within the body – making it circulate longer and target disease processes for detection and characterization,” says Dr Jaffray. “With the growing demand to characterize disease through imaging, this platform shows genuine promise.”

“The encouraging pre-clinical data emerging from our laboratories and those of our collaborators has demonstrated the potential of this technology platform in a wide range of pre-clinical and clinical applications, ” adds Dr Allen. “This flexible technology platform can be easily tailored to meet the needs of specific pre-clinical and clinical applications.”

MaRS Innovation (MI) and the University Health Network (UHN) have now entered into an agreement to collaboratively commercialize this promising technology.

“Here is a strong example of how collaboration across scientific disciplines spawns innovation,” said Dr Christopher Paige, vice president, research, UHN, which consists of Toronto General, Toronto Western and Princess Margaret Hospitals.