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National Cancer Institute
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OverviewUnderstanding NanotechnologyImpacts on CancerWhere It Stands Now

Learn About Nanotechnology in Cancer

Nanotechnology—science and engineering of manipulating matter at the molecular scale to create devices with novel chemical, physical and biological properties—has the potential to radically change how we diagnose and treat cancer. Although we have only recently developed the ability to manipulate technologies on this scale, there has been great progress in moving nano-based cancer therapies into the clinic and many more are in development.

  • To gain a better understanding of nanotechnology, we invite you to begin your exploration of this emerging field by learning about the science behind it.
  • If you want to know more about the current applications of nanotechnology in cancer research and its promise for cancer diagnosis and treatment, the NCI Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer provides up-to-date information on what is available now and what is on the horizon.
  • Nanotechnology relies on the intersection of expertise from many science and engineering disciplines. If you are a cancer biologist looking for new solutions to your research questions or a scientist working with nanomaterials whose applications to cancer research are yet unknown, learn more about new opportunities with the Alliance.

Understanding Nanotechnology

Nanotechnology refers to the interactions of cellular and molecular components and engineered materials—typically clusters of atoms, molecules and molecular fragments—at the most elemental level of biology. Such nanoscale objects—typically, though not exclusively, with dimensions smaller than 100 nanometers—can be useful by themselves or as part of larger devices containing multiple nanoscale objects. Nanotechnology is being applied to almost every field imaginable including biosciences, electronics, magnetics, optics, information technology, and materials development, all of which have an impact on biomedicine. Explore the world of nanotechnology »

Impacts on Cancer

Nanotechnology can provide rapid and sensitive detection of cancer-related molecules, enabling scientists to detect molecular changes even when they occur only in a small percentage of cells. Nanotechnology also has the potential to generate unique and highly effective theraputic agents. Learn about nanotechnology in cancer research »

Where It Stands Now

The use of nanotechnology for diagnosis and treatment of cancer is largely still in the development phase. However, there are already several nanocarrier-based drugs on the market and many more nano-based therapeutics in clinical trials. Read about current developments »