October 27, 2010

Nanoparticle research targets head and neck, pancreatic cancers

Dong Moon Shin, professor of hematology, medical oncology and otolaryngology and director of the Winship Cancer Chemoprevention program

Researchers at Emory and the Georgia Institute of Technology join forces against head and neck cancers and pancreatic cancer with $4.7 million in grants.

The two, five-year grants from the National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Nanotechnology Platform Partnerships (CNPP) program will be used to develop nanoparticles as diagnostic and therapeutic tools against cancers.

The first grant, more than $2.3 million over five years, funds a project by Dong Moon Shin, director of the Winship Cancer Chemoprevention program, and Mostafa El-Sayed, director of Georgia Tech’s Laser Dynamics Laboratory  
Their project is aimed at head and neck cancer, which develops in the soft tissues of the mouth and throat.

When a laser is tuned to certain wavelengths, gold nanoparticles will absorb the energy and convert it to heat, thanks to a phenomenon known as “surface plasmon resonance.” Directing the nanoparticles to “home in” on cancer cells enables the laser to selectively kill them.

“We are excited and grateful for the opportunity to combine our laboratories’ biological and chemical expertise and to develop gold nanoparticle phototherapy into an effective tool against head and neck cancer,” says Shin.  
Researchers plan to target a molecule found on almost all head and neck cancers, using the gold nanoparticles.

Studies in animals on the toxicity of gold nanoparticles and how fast they move within the body will be done before application in humans.

The second grant, nearly $2.4 million over five years, will be used to develop magnetic iron oxide nanoparticles as tools against pancreatic cancer, one of the deadliest of all cancer types. Lily Yang,  associate professor of surgery, and Hui Mao at the Center for Systems Imaging are the principal researchers.

The project’s goal is to combine MRI visualization with drug delivery to diagnose and treat pancreatic cancer.  
Using magnetic nanoparticles developed by Yang and Mao and their teams, researchers plan to direct drug-carrying nanoparticles to improve the delivery to the pancreatic cancer cells.

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

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