Over 10 million surgical operations are performed each year in the NHS, with patients increasingly benefiting from minimally invasive approaches with reduced morbidity, quicker return to normal function, and cost savings for the NHS. Endoluminal (scarless) surgery is the holy grail for gastrointestinal cancers, but the clinical application is limited by the dexterity of instruments and the ability to diagnose and safely treat pathology.
We are interested in developing disruptive and convergent technologies to identify and treat endoluminal cancer, improve disease outcomes, and reduce surgical harm. To do this, we are seeking to establish a new collaboration between medicine, robotics and physics. The aim is to use robots to deliver nanoparticles to tumour sites to enhance localised delivery and identify and treat tumours.
In Physics, we will develop nanomaterials (e.g. micro-/nano-bubbles1,2 gold nano-rods3) that can be delivered robotically and used to locate/ identify tumours (and their margins) through probes contained within the robotic system. These so-called theranostic particles will be activated using light or ultrasound to treat cancer or locally deliver therapy to the tumour area.
Specifically, in Physics, we will:
1. Seek to establish new molecular probes that recognise the tumour target, either directly by recognising the new cancerous growth or targeting the mucosal biofilms associated with colorectal neoplasia. This will require microfluidic systems for the development of cells, biofilms and/or colorectal cancer models.
2. Fabricate and test the targeting of functionalised nanoparticles' targeting in vitro and ex vivo models of endoluminal colonic neoplasia. These particles will be activated by light in the case of gold nanorods (for photothermal therapy) or ultrasound in the case of nano-/micro- bubbles (drug release / sonoporation). The targeting will be by affimers or antibodies.
3. Develop a fluorescent targeting nanoparticle system suitable for demarking endoluminal neoplasia and be ready for preclinical evaluation