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Research Institutes Collaborate on Cancer Nanomedicine

Chemotherapy (National Institutes of Health)

(National Institutes of Health)

Five research institutions have formed the Texas Center for Cancer Nanomedicine (TCCN) in Houston to develop nanotechnologies to improve outcomes for patients with ovarian or pancreatic cancers. TCCN is funded by a five-year, $16 million grant from National Cancer Institute.

The five institutions taking part in TCCN include University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, Methodist Hospital Research Institute, Rice University, and Albert Einstein College of Medicine In New York.

Team members have already developed nanoparticles made from substances with potential for medical use, including gold, silicon, tiny balls of fat called nanoliposomes, and chitosan, which is derived from crustacean shells. A nanometer is one billionth of a meter. Nanoparticles are engineered materials that are 100 nanometers or less in size, at a scale where most biological functions occur.

TCCN’s research program covers four delivery platforms:

  • Multiple-stage delivery systems that put drugs or small interfering RNA in ovarian cancers and the blood vessels that support them, including an imaging approach and proteomic nanochips to monitor response to treatment.
  • Targeted therapeutic nanoparticles to hit blood vessels that support ovarian cancer tumors using thioaptamer and peptide targeting agents: one that delivers siRNA to silence target genes and another that permits burning of blood vessels with near-infrared laser light.
  • Nanoparticles that can penetrate or destroy connective tissues that are abundant in pancreatic cancer tumors and block destruction of cancerous cells, with other nanoparticles tested as preventive agents to reverse conditions that nurture cancer formation and as a method of early detection.
  • Nanoassemblies capable of treating neuroendocrine pancreatic tumors by homing in on a specific vascular address marking the blood vessels that feed the tumor and then delivering smaller nanoparticles to either treat or image the malignancy.

TCCN plans clinical trials of its nanomedicine therapies about two years after it gets under way.

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