03, 2005 --- Nano-sized particles developed at Washington
University School of Medicine in St. Louis offer hope
of replacing numerous medical tests, scans, or surgeries
with a simple injection. The tiny spheres can travel
through the bloodstream deep into the body to locate
and highlight tumors undetectable by typical methods.
While at the tumor site, the nanoparticles can deliver
therapeutic agents to destroy the tumor.
To advance this promising technology, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) has
awarded $16 million over five years to the School of Medicine to establish
the Siteman Center of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence (SCCNE). The NCI also
awarded funding for six other Centers of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence (CCNEs)
around the United States.
Headed by Samuel A. Wickline, M.D., the SCCNE will research and apply nanotechnology
for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Wickline, professor of medicine,
biomedical engineering, physics, and cellular biology and a cardiologist at
Barnes-Jewish Hospital, along with Gregory M. Lanza, M.D., Ph.D., developed
nano-scale particles that can home in on tumor cells to carry imaging agents
and drug therapies directly to tumor sites. Lanza is associate professor of
medicine and a cardiologist at Barnes-Jewish Hospital.
Capable of supporting a wide variety of homing, imaging and therapeutic agents,
nanotechnology offers several advantages over traditional techniques. It can
provide more accurate visualization and characterization of tumors, revealing
even tiny tumors in medical scans. It has the ability to focus chemotherapeutic
drugs exclusively at tumor sites to alleviate unpleasant or risky side effects.
And it offers more precise adaptation of treatment to the biochemical and molecular
features of each patient's disease.
"We've entered an era of precisely targeted and individualized cancer therapy," Wickline
says. "Our nanotechnology will strongly affect the practice of medicine. And
the grant from the NCI will allow us to build a highly effective collaborative
network to bring the technology rapidly to clinical use in the treatment of cancer."
In addition to developing general oncology applications, the SCCNE will focus
its efforts on breast cancer and melanoma detection and treatment. Some projects
planned for the Center include targeting of multiple tumors for early detection
of cancer, a nanoparticle-based contrast agent for ultrasound imaging and therapy
of tumors, statistical tools to model the behavior of nanoparticles in the
body and novel nano-scale sensors for rapidly screening potential anticancer
drugs in single cells.
"The investment in cancer-related nanotechnology by the NCI is a show of confidence
that this technology will truly advance cancer treatment," says Larry J. Shapiro,
M.D., executive vice chancellor for medical affairs and dean of the School of
Medicine. "By bringing these creative laboratory innovations to practical medical
application, the SCCNE will become a vital part of the School of Medicine's BioMed
The NCI began supporting the application of nanotechnology to cancer more than
seven years ago and within the past year has created the NCI Alliance for Nanotechnology
in Cancer (nano.cancer.gov) as a comprehensive initiative to translate nanotechnology
research into clinical practice in cancer medicine. The establishment of the
seven CCNEs is part of this initiative.
"With the advent of the Centers of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence, we are particularly
looking forward to new nanotech-based therapeutic delivery systems that could
enhance the efficacy and tolerability of cancer treatments - an advance that
would greatly benefit cancer patients," says NCI Deputy Director Anna Barker,
Each CCNE is a multi-institutional hub. The SCCNE is a collaboration between
Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, the Siteman Cancer Center
at the School of Medicine and Barnes-Jewish Hospital, the University of Illinois
at Urbana-Champaign, several private sector companies including Kereos Inc
and large multinational corporations including Philips Medical Systems.
The SCCNE will be housed in a newly constructed biotechnology laboratory
complex on the east edge of the School of Medicine campus. Developed by CORTEX,
the Center of Research, Technology & Entrepreneurial Exchange, the building
is scheduled for completion in January 2006.
The other six CCNEs are at the University of North Carolina; the University
of California, San Diego; Emory University and Georgia Institute of Technology
(joint center); Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital (joint
center); Northwestern University; and the California Institute of Technology.
About Washington University School of Medicine:
Washington University School of Medicine's full-time and volunteer faculty
physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children's
hospitals. The School of Medicine is one of the leading medical research,
teaching and patient care institutions in the nation, currently ranked third
in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with
Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children's hospitals, the School of Medicine
is linked to BJC HealthCare.
Siteman Cancer Center is the only NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center
within a 200-mile radius of St. Louis. Siteman Cancer Center is composed of
the combined cancer research and treatment programs of Barnes-Jewish Hospital
and Washington University School of Medicine.
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