Nanotechnology offers improved options for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Today, in the lead up to World Cancer Day on 4 February 2014, 13 countries in Europe are giving special attention to nanotechnology in the fight against cancer.

The pan-European event, “Nano World Cancer Day”  is coordinated by the  European Technology Platform Nanomedicine, a European forum for stakeholders like researchers, clinicians and industry in the field of nanomedicine the application of nanotechnologies in medical products. The national conference in the Netherlands is being held in Utrecht and organised by NanoNextNL and CTMM, two large public-private partnership programmes.

More accurate and targeted medicine delivery

Many products are being developed, for instance, new medicine delivery systems based on many different types of nanoparticles. Such systems can deliver medicines more accurately and targeted to tumours, thus increasing the effectiveness of treatment and reducing side effects. Furthermore, specially designed nanoparticles can cross the blood-brain barrier, thus opening new potential for treating brain tumours with medicine.

Nanotechnology supports earlier diagnosis of cancer and can be used in accurately imaging tumours in preparation for surgical procedures. For instance, iron oxide nanoparticles are being developed that can attach to tumours and because of their magnetic properties can be seen clearly on MRI scans.

Promising innovations

Many more new products are being developed using nanotechnology. To ensure that these become available to patients, promising innovations have to be developed and introduced responsibly. Thus as well as the benefits, the risks and possible side effects of new products have to be investigated right from the start, and clinicians and government have to be involved at an early stage.

The European Technology Platform on Nanomedicine has made a number of recommendations for setting up a European infrastructure to support researchers and companies. These recommendations have been taken up in the EU European Union (European Union) Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, Horizon 2020.

National Platform on Nanomedicine

RIVM is a member of the European Technology Platform Nanomedicine and coordinates the theme Risk Assessment and Technology Assessment in the NanoNextNL research programme. RIVM also brings together parties in the Netherlands for the successful and responsible development of nanotechnology in health care. For this purpose, RIVM has set up the National Platform on Nanomedicine.