Friday, June 12, 2015

Nanotechnology at MD Anderson Cancer Center

Suzanne and I have been traveling around Texas seeking out unique Texas products, places and Texans to share with you for the past couple of years. Texas history is so rich that we feel we will never learn all there is to know about Texas. The folks we have met along the way have shared their passions about what they do and their insights have been fascinating. The food and drinks have been fabulous to say the least. Although Suzanne thinks I seek out too many craft breweries, wineries and distilleries; I keep telling her these are the current entrepreneurs that will reenergize the pioneering spirit that Texas was built on. Plus, I get to have a few adult beverages along the way! Hope she keeps buying into this message.

So to satisfy Suzanne, I’ve wandered over to something different. Since Suzanne found out recently she has breast cancer, I have been researching the latest information and treatments for cancer. Here in Houston, we have some of the best cancer treatment centers in the world. One of the little known gems I discovered is a research project at MD Anderson called Magnetic Relaxometry. Like the inquisitive blogger I am, I reached out to the Lead Investigator of the project to see if Suzanne and I could come by for a visit to learn more about their research. To my surprise, the researcher said “Yes!”

Suzanne and I were excited about the meeting. Many people don’t know that the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center is a research center in addition to being a cancer hospital. Suzanne was able to participate in a Stage 2 trial called “I SPY 2” that allows her to take an additional specific targeting drug along with her normal treatment.  She believes research is crucial to finding better treatments and hopefully a cure. 

The research building we were visiting was away from the main MD Anderson Cancer Center and looked like a shiny new penny. We waited patiently in the lobby like grandparents waiting on their grandbaby to be born. Soon, a young lady approached us with a large smile and introduced herself. Her name is Kelsey Mathieu, PHD Instructor, Imaging Physics and Lead Investigator. She led us to a room where the cutting edge imaging device is located. This device is called a SQUID, short for Superconducting Quantum Interference Device. The name sounded like something said by Sheldon on the Big Bang Theory TV Show!

This approach, called “NanoMagnetic Relaxometry”, is based on the premise of attaching superparamagnetic nanoparticles to antibodies that will adhere to specifically identified cancer cells, applying a brief magnetic pulse and then detecting and determining the number of cancer cells present in the body if any.

Kelsey explained the process known as Nanomagnetic Relaxometry to us in detail and answered all our questions. Basically they add a nanomagnetic particle to a targeting agent that will adhere to cancer cells only. Then a brief magnetic pulse is applied and the SQUID detects the signal of the location of the cancer cells, if any exist. This technology which is 200 times more sensitive than current methods could replace MRI scans, sonograms and mammograms. Also, it would be cheaper and less invasive than the methods used to detect cancer now. Another use would be in verification of cancer-free existence after chemotherapy or surgery or radiation. In Suzanne’s case, the doctors will use surgery and radiation to make sure they killed all the cancer cells after chemotherapy. One day these duplications of treatment will be a thing of the past if this method works.

Suzanne and I were so impressed by the promise of this new technology, we wanted to help out. Believing small research projects like this one lack the funding that the higher profile projects get, we decided to create a “Go Fund Me” Account called Suzanne’s Cancer Adventure. Our goal is to donate as much money as we can raise for The Magnetic Relaxometry Research Laboratory at MD Anderson. We hope you will agree with us and give to our “Go Fund Me” account. I’ve even decided to give to you as a thank you gift, a copy of my book “The Second Coming – The Republic of Texas” signed by Suzanne with her Mind/Matter > cancer catchphrase,  to those who donate $25 or more. Suzanne has also created another blog appropriately titled “My Equations For Life”. Here you will learn about Suzanne’s Cancer Adventure as she navigates MD Anderson. She wants it to be informative yet lighthearted. Hope you will enjoy! We would also appreciate any feedback or questions you might have.

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