Written by Zachary Higbie

Groundbreaking research coming out of the Georgia Institute of Technology in magnetic nanoparticles has led to substantive results in the treatment of ovarian cancer.  The addition of these particles, specially engineered using ligands to attract free-floating ovarian cancer cells, to abdominal fluid has shown the ability to remove the affected cells through the use of magnetic filters.  Studies conducted using infected mice have shown the use of such nanoparticles slows the metastasis of the cancer significantly, increasing the average life span by nearly a third.

The developments of this study have led to a startup company, Sub-Micro, Inc., by lead researchers John McDonald and Ken Scarberry.  McDonald, a professor of Biology at Georgia Tech, is also the chief research scientist of Atlanta’s Ovarian Cancer Institute, while postdoctoral fellow Scarberry serves as the CEO of the company. The primary focus of the startup is the development of an implementation system for human treatment that slows tumor progression while minimizing the risk of infection. Though in its early stages, grants and investments from the Georgia Research Alliance (GRA), the Ovarian Cancer Institute, the Robinson Family Foundation and the Deborah Nash Harris Endowment have already yielded revenues of over $100,000. Categorized under Health and Allied Services and as a member of Georgia Tech’s ATDC startup accelerator program, the company is currently working with a medical device firm to develop a prototype that would function much like existing dialysis technologies, filtering a buffer solution through the peritoneal cavity and circulating out bad cells.

Sub-Micro is optimistic about having a functional device ready for human testing within the next three years.  Used in conjunction with chemotherapy and radiation, it is believed that the treatment option could substantially mitigate metastasis and help patients live much less debilitated lives. The possibilities of such technologies don’t stop with ovarian cancer. Once a device is developed, moderate alterations could be used on potentially any cancer that circulates through fluids and open the door for research in the use of nanoparticles in treatment of diseases such as HIV.



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