Forecasting when a technology, especially a medical technology, will be
available for use is not an exact science. The progress of medical research can
very often be agonizingly slow. Many blind alleys have to be explored before
even animal testing can be performed. And even techniques that show promise in
animal testing very often do not prove as useful once human trials begin. And
of course government bureaucracies such as the Food and Drug Administration
take a great deal of time to approve new drugs and medical techniques for
Nevertheless, some nanotechnology therapies are already available.
Liposomes, a first generation nanotechnology device, is being used to deliver
drugs to treat certain kinds of fungal infections as well as some kinds of
cancer. A team at MIT have managed to successfully kill cancer tumors in mice
using a nanodevice delivered drug. Another team at Stanford has used carbon
nanotubes to heat and destroy cancer cells.
In 2001, the National Cancer Institute suggested that nanodevices that could
detect cancers could be available in “five to fifteen years” and that similar
devices that could treat cancers would be available in about the same time
frame. Devices that can both detect and treat cancers could be available in
“fifteen to twenty years.”
That means that within the lifetimes of most people, cancer, that great
killer of our time, may no longer be fraught with the horrors we view it with
now. Our descendents might well view cancer as we view certain plagues of the
past, like small pox, as part of history and no longer as part of everyday life.