Nanotechnology: A new way to treat kids' cancer

When her son Matthew was diagnosed with leukemia at two-and-a-half years old, Cheryl Hayes said it was the most difficult time in her life.

"It was like our world just totally fell apart," Hayes said.

After 38 months of chemotherapy, Matthew is now cancer free and enjoys the activities of a typical 11-year-old kid.

"Basketball, playing video games and riding my bike," said Matthew, to name a few.

Still, Hayes is concerned the treatment that saved her son's life could also lead to more problems down the road.

While more kids are surviving childhood cancers like some leukemia's, the goal is to keep them healthy as they grow up.

Because chemotherapy kills cancerous and normal cells, some children face long-term complications including learning problems, bone deformity and even secondary cancers.

Dr. Raj Rajasekaran, a researcher at the University of Delaware, says using nanotechnology, or tiny particles, to deliver chemotherapy is where his research aims to help.

"Just to give you an idea of the particle size, the diameter of your hair is about 80,000 nanometers, and we are talking about 100 nanometers," said Dr. Rajasekaran.

His research on mice shows you can fill the cavity of a nanoparticle with chemotherapy, then on the surface add sensors that will look for and unlock cancer cells.

"So you can spare the normal cells and at the same time you can kill the cancer cells," said Dr. Rajasekaran.

If it works, Hayes said it will be a game changer for other young cancer survivors.

"That way it's not as hard on their systems from the get-go during treatment, and it won't be as hard for them later in life," said Hayes.

Nanotechnology still needs to go through more testing before it can be used on kids.

However, it is currently being used to deliver some types of chemotherapy to adults.

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