Theranostics for cancer

Theranostics is a portmanteau – a mashup of therapy and diagnostics. It’s a hot area of research now, but has yet to yield many results. Advocates claim it will eliminate steps in the overall therapy process and bring quicker treatment to ailing patients.

The idea is a technology that could do all or part of a diagnosis – identifying a disease or finding malignant cells – along with all or part of a treatment to attack the disease. For instance, scientists imagine tiny particles that can both diagnose disease and deliver treatment – perhaps to deliver treatment only to malignant cells.

iv administationFor instance, imaging technology could be combined with delivery of chemotherapy agent or nucleic acids (gene therapy), or radioactive particles. Proposed systems use “nanoplatforms” that can travel through the bloodstream.  Chemotheranostics is another word some are using to refer to theranostics employing a chemotherapy agent. Proposed diagnostic techniques include fluorescence imaging and optoacoustic imaging to guide the chemotherapy agent.

Scientists have looked into carbon nanotubes as well as nanoparticles (iron oxide, gold, silica), Theranostics are exciting especially in research where it allows researchers look into the kinetics of drug movement and the efficiency of the therapy. Researchers load imaging agents used in other diagnostic systems (fluorescent materials, MRI, PET/SPECT) onto nanoplatforms to figure out what happens at a cellular level.

So far few theranostics have found their way into medical practice. Research is focused on platforms. Scientific papers are published about work on nanoshells, plasmonic nanobubbles, and other exotic stuff. Lutetium-177 was approved by the FDA in 2018 and is considered a theranostic technology.