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Nanotechnology Opens New Frontier in Cancer Treatment

Science fiction is becoming a scientific reality when it comes to potential cancer treatments.

Nanotechnology has long been a subject of intrigue in the sci-fi world. Now, Pfizer scientists are investigating a (working on, whatever you like) form of nanotechnology called nanoparticles, and they're using those particles—which are so minuscule that 1 million of them could fit in a single cell—to develop a new method of targeting tumors.

With nanoparticles, the goal is to create more precise and effective cancer treatments with fewer side effects. Nanoparticles are different because they are designed with the goal of making a beeline for the tumor and releasing drugs at a controlled rate, killing off the cancer cells while sparing normal cells. If successful, this could represent a big change from most anti-cancer drugs, which work by destroying not only cancer cells, but many times also damaging healthy cells in the process.

“It’s like missiles attacking the cancer precisely,” says Puja Sapra, who is leading the team working on nanoparticles and is in charge of Pfizer's Targeted Therapeutics Unit in Oncology Research & Development.

The concept of nanoparticles once seemed like a futuristic fantasy. At Pfizer, science fiction is becoming a potential breakthrough that could change patients’ lives.

To learn more about Pfizer’s work in nanoparticles, watch this video, which is the first of four in a science series made in partnership with Smithsonian.