Texas Center targets pancreatic and ovarian cancers

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The Texas Center for Cancer Nanomedicine, funded by a $16 million, five-year grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI), has blended five research institutions to focus on an array of nanotechnologies to improve outcomes of patients with ovarian or pancreatic cancers.

The five research institutes include the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, the Methodist Hospital Research Institute in Houston, Rice University in Houston and Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City.

The center anticipates launching clinical trials of its nanomedicine therapies two years after the center opens. The grant from the NCI Alliance for Nanotechnology in cancer will not fund the clinical trials.

The team has developed nanoparticles made from a variety of substances that hold potential for medical use, including gold, silicon, tiny balls of fat called nanoliposomes and chitosan, which is derived from crustacean shells.

The center’s research is divided into four projects, with scientists from multiple institutions using a variety of nanoparticles in each:
1) Multiple-stage delivery systems that can efficiently put drugs or small interfering RNA in ovarian cancers and the blood vessels that support them. The project also includes development of a sensitive imaging approach and proteomic nanochips to monitor response to treatment.
2) Targeted therapeutic nanoparticles designed specifically to hit the blood vessels that support ovarian tumors using thioaptamer and peptide targeting agents.
3) Nanoparticles that can penetrate or destroy connective tissues that are abundant in pancreatic tumors and block destruction of cancerous cells.
4) Multifunctional 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.