Cancer Institute A national cancer institute
designated cancer center

Nanotechnology Diagnostics

Quantum Dots

Advances in the material used to make semiconductor chips have opened the door to a new era in medical imaging that will allow doctors to pinpoint diseases with greater precision than ever before.


The application of nanotechnology to imaging technology is paving the way for the future of personalized medicine. Using these diagnostics, doctors may one day be able to tailor individual therapies to the very molecules that distinguish a patient's cancer from other cancer types.

One approach under development relies on a technique known as quantum dots, or qdots. These tiny, nanocrystal structures use pieces of protein attached to their surface to zero in and latch on to the distinctive proteins on certain cancer cells. Once injected into animals models, qdots produce high-resolution multi-colored images of individual molecules moving within the animals' cells.

Because qdots can track the presence of multiple molecules over an extended period of time, researchers aim to use them to generate a kind of optical barcode reflecting the levels of various tumor markers. The barcode could indicate tumor type and stage.

Scientific Goals

Program Researcher

This work is carried out in collaboration with the CCNE program and the Molecular Imaging Program at Stanford (MIPS).

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