News Feature | February 21, 2014

NIH Awards Researchers $3 Million For Cancer Related Research

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By Marcus Johnson

The National Institute of Health (NIH) has awarded researchers at Penn State and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center $3 million in order to study new polymers, which will be used for a more efficient delivery for targeted cancer drugs. The research is considered a nanoparticle project. The new polymers will also be used to repair damaged arteries. The study’s co-principal investigator is Jian Yang, a bioengineer at Penn State. Yang will work alongside Jer-Tsong Hsieh of Texas Southwestern.

About half of the money awarded by the NIH was split between two projects: $1.6 million to develop biodegradable nanoparticles to help treat prostate cancer and $1.4 million to develop nanoparticles that help improve healing in damaged arteries.

Yang and Hsieh will focus on finding a specific genotoxin for prostate cancer that will target and attack cancer cells. The targeted particles will stop tumors from spreading from the prostate to other parts of the body. If surgery is needed to remove a tumor, then fluorescent nanoparticles would be used to identify cancer cells that might be difficult to spot using only the naked eye.

“We will need to optimize the genotoxin, and make sure we can put it into the nanoparticle," Yang said. "Then we will have to tune the nanoparticle to emit strong fluorescence, and also control the release of the drug into the tumor and not the bloodstream. Angioplasty and stenting often damage arterial walls, with a significant risk of subsequent complications, such as re-narrowing of the artery or blood clot.”