PASADENA, Calif., Oct. 3 /PRNewswire/ -- Jim Heath wants to catch cancer
earlier and provide more effective monitoring of patients' responses to
therapies. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) likes his plan and just awarded
him $3.6 million to get started. The first year award from NCI is tentatively
expected to continue at the same level for the next five years totaling $18
Heath, the Elizabeth Gilloon Professor and professor of chemistry at the
California Institute of Technology, will direct the Nanosystems Biology Cancer
Center at Caltech (NSBCC). This center will focus on the development and
validation of tools for early detection and stratification of cancer through
rapid and quantitative measurement of panels of serum and tissue-based
The new center establishes a collaborative team comprising investigators
from Caltech, the Institute for Systems Biology (ISB) in Seattle, and UCLA's
Institute for Molecular Medicine and Jonnson Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Former Caltech professor and ISB founder Lee Hood is a co-Director of the
NSBCC, and Michael Phelps, Norton Simon Professor and Chair of the UCLA
Molecular & Medical Pharmacology Department, is also a co-Director.
The grant is part of an overall effort by the National Cancer Institute
(NCI), which is part of the National Institutes of Health, to establish seven
Centers of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence (CCNEs). The centers were
announced today by the NCI as a major component of its $144.3 million five-
year initiative for nanotechnology in cancer research. First year awards
totaling $26.3 million will help establish the centers.
The focus of the Caltech center will be to develop and validate tools for
the early detection and stratification of cancer through rapid and
quantitative measurements of panels of serum and tissue-based biomarkers, and
to also use those tools to evaluate the efficacy of various cancer therapies.
In addition to general oncology applications, this CCNE will focus on prostate
and ovarian cancer, glioblastoma and melanoma. During the course of the
projects that this CCNE will conduct, investigators will develop:
* Nanotechnology and microfluidics-based chips for profiling various
cancers through serum analysis. The goal is to use a fingerprick of
blood as a diagnostic window into health and disease by detecting a
panel of serum-based proteins that reflect the onset, progression, and
therapeutic responses of cancer.
* Chip-based tools for isolating rare circulating white blood cells as a
means of understanding how to better harness a patient's own immune
system for fighting off cancer.
* Identification of biomarkers that are indicators of the health status of
specific organs, such as the prostate or ovaries, and are secreted into
the blood. Such biomarkers are then detected using the nanotech-based
chips for achieving an informative diagnosis of various cancers through
* Technologies for visualizing cancer in patients (and thus directing
therapies) through the use of in vivo molecular imaging. Highly
targeted molecular imaging probes, prepared using "click" chemistry
approaches, will be developed.
* The development of high-throughput nanofabrication methods for
constructing the low-cost diagnostic chip-based devices.
"The clinical treatment of cancer will undergo profound change over the
next 10-15 years," said Heath. "This change will be catalyzed by a systems
biology approach toward understanding the disease, and by microfluidics and
nanotechnologies that can translate that approach into clinically useful
tools. These advances will allow for an early and informative diagnosis of
cancer through in vitro diagnostics and in vivo molecular imaging of patients.
These new technologies will guide drug discovery and treatment selection on an
individualized basis, providing the right drug for the right patient. The
goal of the NSBCC is to serve as the agent of that change by developing the
core technologies for achieving this vision, and by catalyzing the
commercialization of those technologies. The combination of nanotechnologies
from Caltech, proteomics, genomics, and computational biology from the
Institute for Systems Biology, and the molecular imaging, cancer biology and
clinical cancer programs from UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center provide
the cross-disciplinary basic and clinical science expertise committed to
realizing this vision."
"We believe that nanotechnology will have a transformative effect on
cancer diagnosis and treatment. In fact its impact is already visible in the
research being conducted through many of the centers we are announcing today,"
said Andrew von Eschenbach, M.D., director of the National Cancer Institute.
"Through the applications of nanotechnology, we will increase the rate of
progress towards eliminating the suffering and death due to cancer."
Nanotechnology, the development and engineering of devices so small that
they are measured on a molecular scale, has demonstrated promising results in
cancer research and treatment. NCI launched the plan to create the NCI
Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer in September 2004, as a comprehensive,
integrated initiative to develop and translate cancer-related nanotechnology
research into clinical practice.
NCI's Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer encompasses four major program
components, including the CCNEs. CCNEs are multi-institutional hubs, which
will focus on integrating nanotechnology into basic and applied cancer
research and providing new solutions for the diagnosis and treatment of
Each of the CCNE awardees is associated with one or more NCI-designated
cancer centers, affiliated with schools of engineering and physical sciences,
and partnered with not-for-profit organizations and/or private sector firms,
with the specific intent of advancing the technologies being developed.
Similar centers will be established by University of North Carolina, UC
San Diego, Emory-Georgia Tech, MIT-Harvard, Northwestern University, and
Washington University in St. Louis, Mo.
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SOURCE California Institute of Technology