NCI, UC-San Diego develop center of excellence for cancer nanotechnology
In a new national effort to fight cancer with "nanoscale" devices that find and destroy tumor cells while leaving healthy tissue unharmed, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) awarded the University of California, San Diego $3.9 million in the first year of a five-year $20 million initiative to establish a Center for Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence (CCNE). The UCSD center will use nanotechnology to develop anti-cancer therapies that directly target tumor cells; more accurate and faster diagnostics; and ways to track down cancer cells that survive therapy.

"This Center for Excellence will bring the best minds in engineering, basic and translational research, and clinical care together to apply the power of nanotechnology to the improved treatment of cancer, the second leading cause of death in our society today," said UCSD Chancellor Mary Anne Fox. "Such an effort represents the tremendous value of collaboration, not only across disciplines, but also among institutions, resulting in important innovations that benefit our society."

The focus of the UCSD team will be to develop "mother ships," smart nanoplatforms capable of homing in on tumors and delivering payloads of smaller particles to perform various tasks in the tumors. About the size of a red blood cell, these micron-sized nanoporous mother ships would move through the body, target specific tumor cells or the blood vessels that feed them. After arriving at their destinations, mother ships would release their payload nanoparticles, which could be designed to help image tumors, enter cells and perform measurements, and deliver therapies. Chemists at UCSD together with materials scientists at the University of California, Santa Barbara nanofabrication facility will synthesize nanoparticles that will be coated with "biolinkers," molecules developed at the Burnham Institute to make the particles attach to specific types of tumor cells.