Georgia Tech, Emory use NCI grants, nanoparticles to target cancers

Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University are using cooperative five-year grants totaling $4.7 million to develop nanoparticles as diagnostic and therapeutic tools against cancers, TechJournal South reports. The two combined grants come from the National Cancer Institute's Cancer Nanotechnology Platform Partnerships (CNPP) program.

The first grant of more than $2.3 million over five years and is shared by Dong Moon Shin, professor of hematology, medical oncology and otolaryngology and director of the Winship Cancer Chemoprevention program, and Mostafa El-Sayed, regents professor of chemistry and biochemistry and director of the Laser Dynamics Laboratory at Georgia Institute of Technology. Their project, titled "Toxicity and efficacy of gold nanoparticle photothermal therapy in cancer," is aimed at head and neck cancer, which develops in the soft tissues of the mouth and throat, TechJournal South says.

The researchers will use a laser to heat gold nanoparticles, which will then direct the laser to selectively kill cancer cells using a phenomenon called surface plasmon resonance. They plan to target the molecule EGFR (epidermal growth factor receptor), which is found on almost all head and neck cancers.

The second grant for is for about $2.4 million over five years and will be used to develop magnetic iron oxide nanoparticles as tools against pancreatic cancer. Lily Yang, associate professor of surgery, and Hui Mao, associate professor of radiology and Center for Systems Imaging, both at Emory University School of Medicine, will work on a project called "Theranostic nanoparticles for targeted treatment of pancreatic cancer." The project combines MRI with drug delivery to both diagnose and treat pancreatic cancer. They'll improve the delivery of chemotherapeutic agents by directing drug-carrying magnetic iron oxide nanoparticles to the molecule uPAR (urokinase plasminogen activator receptor), which is prevalent in pancreatic cancer cells.

"These nanoparticles can be tracked by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)," Yang says, "so we will test our ability to monitor drug delivery and treatment responses with imaging technology."

- see the Emory release
- check out the report in TechJournal South
- read about these and other NCI Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer awards