What if cancers could be identified even deep inside the body, without needing a biopsy or any sort of invasive internal probes?
What if doctors could do this on-the-spot, get immediate results, and then use the same device to treat any suspicious tumours right there and then, without surgery or rounds of radio or chemotherapy?
What would the future look like for cancer patients if these things were possible?
A team of researchers, led by scientists at the University of Exeter, are developing a technology that could make this future a reality.
Raman Nanotheranostics (RaNT) is a £5.7 million project developing a new technique which aims to detect and treat cancers – even those deep inside the body – non-invasively, using tiny, specially designed gold particles (nanoparticles) and infra-red laser light.
Prostate cancer is one of the initial targets (along with Breast and Head & Neck) that the technique is focusing on.
The Vision for RaNT
The idea is that when someone shows signs of a potential cancer, they will be injected with a biosafe solution containing clusters of gold nanoparticles. These move through the bloodstream, and have a special coating that allows them to find and attach to the surface of cancer cells.
There will also be tiny beacons attached to each cluster, that return a signal when scanned with infra-red light. This signal will reveal the exact location and will indicate the size of a potential cancer. It will also contain information on the cancer-type, allowing suspicious legions to be accurately identified. Using RaNT, it may also be possible to check for multiple different diseases at the same time and spot if a cancer has spread – all remotely, on-the-spot, without the need for a biopsy!
Doctors can then make an informed decision on the need for treatment or continued monitoring and discuss this with the patient.
If a decision is made to treat, RaNT is being designed to offer a pioneering form of light-activated heat treatment, facilitated by the gold nanoclusters, and applied directly to the cancer cells; hoping to avoid damage to healthy tissue.
A short video on the RaNT homepage https://rant-medicine.com/ introduces our vision in more detail.
How Can You Help?
The technology is being developed in the lab right now, but it’s still early-days and far from the finished package.
The team need to hear your thoughts on the proposed RaNT procedure: what works and what concerns you? If RaNT was available during your healthcare journey, how might it have changed your experience of cancer care? They want to understand what is important to you and how RaNT can support this.
If you’d like a say in how this ground-breaking research progresses, or just want to find out more about RaNT, then Ryan will be joining the Plymouth PCSG Meeting on July 28th at 18.00 . details of how to join the meeting on Zoom will be posted soon.
To contact Dr Ryan Edginton (RaNT Communities Engagement Manager) at R.Edginton@exeter.ac.uk or give him a call on 07784200073.