In nano-rod we trust: magnetic pulse tech breakthrough for cancer drug delivery

By Gareth Macdonald

- Last updated on GMT

Nanoparticles as medical devices and for drug delivery
Nanoparticles as medical devices and for drug delivery

Related tags Cancer Oncology

A magnetic pulse technology that can align and push nanoparticles to points distant to magnet surfaces could finally make magnets attractive for deep tissue drug delivery according to researchers.

The idea of avoiding invasive surgery by using magnetic particles to deliver drugs is not new.

Early efforts by Freeman, Arrott and Watson on cancer drugs​ laid the foundation for research in the 70s​, 80s​ and 90s​ and Google X recently said it is developing nanoparticles for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes​.

Despite these efforts, no magnetic delivery tech is available according to Irving Weinberg of Weinberg Medical Physics who said: “Until now magnets could only concentrate therapy to targets right near the magnet which meant either only treating shallow targets or having to resort to implanting magnets in patients to reach deeper targets.”

But Weinberg and partners at the University of Maryland (UMD) think they have solved this problem using a series of magnetic pulses to first orient ferromagnetic rod-shaped nanoparticles, without attracting them, and then push them to distant targets.

Weinberg told “our technology enables deep targeting and will enable magnetic targeting to have broad clinical utility​” adding that “more than just pushing we can focus to a target between the magnets​.”

Medical devices, stem cells and RNA 

Applications include using the empty particles to destroy tumours themselves or payloads like chemotherapies, RNA fragments or stem cells could be delivered to targets according to Wienberg, who has formed a company, IronFocus Medical, to assess these ideas.  

We are building a combined imaging/targeting platform that will direct particles to foci in preclinical models of infection, neurological disease, and cancer. Our particles are manufactured with template techniques that are amenable to large-scale production​.”

The proof-of-concept project is funded by the US National Cancer Institute (NCI) Small Business Innovation Research program, however, IronFocus “is seeking additional investor funding in order to carry out preclinical studies of safety and effectiveness​” Wienberg said.

With adequate funding, the business plan calls for initial deployment of the bare particles and the driver as medical devices, which we expect will take the FDA between 3-5 years to evaluate.”

He added that: “Subsequent indications to be presented to the FDA for evaluation would include drug delivery​.” 

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