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A tiny weapon joins fight against cancer

Since they were first developed a quarter-century ago, carbon nanotubes (CNTs) have impressed scientists with their mechanical strength and stiffness, their optical performance, and their ability to conduct heat and electricity.

A carbon nanotube (CNT) can be as narrow as 1 nanometer in diameter, but its length can measure in the hundreds or thousands of nanometers. One nanometer is a billionth of a meter, or between one ten-thousandth and one hundred-thousandth the thickness of a human hair. CNTs are used in a variety of applications, from clothing and sporting equipment to building materials, photovoltaic cells, batteries, electronic devices and even automobile tires.
               
Dan Roxbury ’07, ’12G sees another potential use for the tiny tubes. One day, he hopes, CNTs will be inserted in the human body to serve as an early warning system to detect and treat cancer. Roxbury, who holds a B.S. and Ph.D., both in chemical engineering, recently received a $150,000 grant from the American Cancer Society to further his work as a research fellow at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research in New York.

There, according to an article on the ACS website, Roxbury is building a sensor made of CNTs wrapped with strands of DNA that can detect in the bloodstream the amount of a biomarker called urokinase plasminogen activator (uPA) that signals the presence and progression of some types of cancer.

Read the full story in the Lehigh University News Center.

-Story by Kurt Pfitzer

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Dan Roxbury

Dan Roxbury 07, 12G

Dan Roxbury

Roxbury hopes that his DNA-wrapped carbon nanotube, when attached to an antibody, can detect cancers before they metastasize throughout the body, like the growth shown in this image. (Image courtesy of Getty Images)