The Next Generation of Multifunctional Nanoparticles for Cancer Imaging and Therapy

In photodynamic therapy (PDT), a nano particle (NP), is placed within the body and is illuminated with light from outside the body. Normally, the light that gets absorbed by the NP can produce high energy oxygen molecules which will chemically react with and destroy most organic molecules that are next to them, like tumours. This type of light therapy can also be employed to release small drug molecules from the surface of the NP. PDT can be far less expensive than radiotherapy or surgical operation and post operative care. Furthermore, PDT recovery typically requires hours or days rather than weeks, and does not leave a toxic trail of reactive molecules throughout the body as is the case with chemotherapy. This is because the light is targeted at the precise location of the NPs. PDT therefore, is potentially a non-invasive procedure for treatment of diseases, growths and tumours. Additionally, NPs with multiphoton upconversion properties are useful for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer and hold great promise for biosensing and bioimaging. Dr. John-Christopher Boyer is involved in designing the next generation of multifunctional NPs capable of both imaging and selectively targeting cancer cells using photodynamic therapy based on molecular switches. The ultimate goal of his project is to develop nanoparticles with photon upconversion properties, and apply them in sensitive cancer detection. Consequently, a focus of his current research project is to evaluate the performance of the upconverting NPs when applied to sensitive detection and treatment of prostate cancer. Dr. Boyer's research could significantly enhance Canada's position in nanomedicine, and developments in this area may well revolutionise medical practice in cancer detection and treatment over the coming years.