The National Cancer Institute awards the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign roughly $5 million in research funding each year. This funding supports a number of cancer research projects conducted at the university. One such project is a ground breaking study of nanoparticles that researchers designed to specifically bind to a protein that marks the surface of breast cancer stem cells and destroy them. These elusive and rare cells can cause cancer to come back years after the tumor has been treated.
(Image of invasive breast cancer, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
How the treatment works:
Encapsulated within the nanoparticles is the medication niclosamide. In cancer cells this drug turns off key gene pathways that give these cancer stem cells the ability to grow and spread. Dr. Dipanjan Pan, professor of bioengineering and leader of the study explained in an article for the Illinois News Bureau, “I call them ‘GPS-enabled nanoparticles,’ because they seek out only the cells that have cancer stem cell properties. Then they latch onto the cells and deliver the drug.” She went on to say, “To the best of our knowledge, this is the first demonstration of delivering cancer stem-cell-targeted therapy with a nanoparticle.”
Cancer stem cells make up only a tiny fraction of cells in a tumor; however, it only takes one or two of these cells to seed a new tumor. Finding cells and treating these cells has been an ongoing challenge for physicians and researchers. Pan’s group created nanoparticles that target a protein called CD44, which only appears on the surface of cancer stem cells, to overcome the issue of finding the cells. Then the researchers used the nanoparticles to deliver niclosamide, which is already used around the world for the treatment of tapeworm infections. In a previous study, Pan’s group discovered that niclosamide works on a particular gene-regulation pathway in cancer stem cells.
In the new study, the cancer stem cells lost their stem-like properties after receiving the niclosamide treatment. This made them less able to cause the cancer to recur or metastasize. The researchers also saw a significant decrease in overall cancer cell growth, both in the cell cultures and in the mice. By using an already-approved drug and easy-to-manufacture nanoparticles, Pan hopes this system will become an accessible and cost-efficient treatment to prevent cancer recurrence in patients
UI researchers are working on creating a combination therapy that can deliver drugs therapies for the primary cancer as well as agents that can treat cancer stem cells. They are currently testing the nanoparticle drug-delivery system in large animal models to bring the system a step closer to human clinical trials.
More About University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign:
- UI Urbana consistently ranks among the top five universities for National Science Foundation funded research.
- The National Institute of Health has awarded the university nearly $47 million in research project grants in 2017
- The university ranks in the top 40 in research and development funding.
- R&D funding for biological sciences is over $63 million annually.
- Its total annual research funding exceeds $600 million.
Researcher at University of Illinios Urbana-Champaign Meet with Lab Suppliers at Bioresearch Product Faire:
On Friday, May 25, 2018 Biotechnology Calendar, Inc. will be hosting the 16th Annual BioResearch Product Faire at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. If you are a laboratory equipment supplier, this is an excellent opportunity to meet with life science researchers and educate them about your lab products.