Denver Whittington, assistant professor in the Department of Physics, and Weiwei Zheng, assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry, are principal investigators for separate five-year National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER awards. The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program is a…
Better Cancer Treatment Through Nanotechnology
Assistant Professor Shikha Nangia in the College of Engineering and Computer Science is collaborating with Assistant Professor Juntao Luo of Upstate Medical University to develop a way to deliver cancer-fighting drugs more effectively using nanoparticles. The National Institutes of Health has funded their efforts, awarding Upstate a two-year grant for the proposal titled “Rational Design and High Throughput Synthesis of Nanocarriers for Efficient Drug Delivery.”
In chemotherapy, cancer-fighting drugs are often given to patients through an intravenous injection. Once injected, they spread throughout the body and damage healthy cells along with the cancerous cells, causing many side effects. One way to prevent the drugs from attacking healthy cells and target cancer more specifically is to encapsulate them in some kind of a carrier that takes the drug as its cargo and delivers it to cancerous tumors. Inside the tumor, the carriers break down, releasing the drug and killing the cancerous cells. This happens at one-billionth of a meter, at the nanoscale—hence the term “nanocarrier.”
To design an efficient nanocarrier is no trivial task, and to design a nanocarrier based on the drug structure is even more challenging. Cancer patients are currently given DOXIL, a nanocarrier that releases the drug quite slowly. The novel nanocarriers developed in this study have a well-controlled drug release profile and show much better efficacy than DOXIL in cancer treatment in animal models.
Nangia adds, “With this work, Dr. Luo has found the nanocarriers are stable in the blood stream and they release the drug more efficiently. It’s going make chemotherapy more effective for cancer patients.”
Luo’s lab designs and synthesizes the nanocarrier particles, loads them with the drugs and tests them on mice. Nangia’s lab handles the computational end of things, simulating nanocarrier formation and drug interactions that in turn help the design of even better nanocarriers for efficient drug loading.
When Nangia and Luo have perfected their work, their nanocarriers will go through the process of clinical trials and additional research. Eventually, cancer patients should benefit from this work through better treatment of their disease and an improved rate of recovery.