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Prof. Daniel receives grant on anti-cancer nanoparticles

August 11, 2015 11:38 AM
Marie-Christine Daniel, associate professor of chemistry, has received a three-year $390,000 NSF grant, starting August 1, to develop multifunctional nanoparticles, which have shown promising capabilities in comparison to bundled diverse monofunctional nanoparticles.

Drugs often need to do many things at once, for optimal treatment. For example, doctors ideally need chemotherapy to target a tumor, deliver at least one drug (possibly several simultaneously), and carry an imaging agent that can be used to track the passage of the drug in the patient's system. Currently, different particles that can do different things are bundled together in cancer combination therapy, but this may not be the most efficient and effective form of drug delivery.

Once the particles enter the body, they may not all go to the same place. A particle with a drug may go to one part of the body while a particle with the imaging agent goes to another part of the body, and you might need to increase the amount of a chemo drug to get the appropriate amount to actually reach the tumor. This research attempts to solve these problems by creating nanoparticles (or "nanocarriers") that each have multiple functions. The same nanoparticle might carry multiple drugs, a  tracker, and a targeting agent, to more effectively reach and attack tumors.

This study explores what this type of multifunctional nanoparticles might look like and how it would work. Each function has different properties, and those properties might change by being in close proximity to one another. What is the best proportion of each for the highest level of efficacy? Perhaps 50% drug, 25% targeting agent, 25% imaging tag? More drug? Less?

In this study, the researchers will sequentially combine a fluorescent tag, MRI tag, protein (to model targeting ability), and two different chemo drugs, to determine the optimal ratios and assess if different combinations will enhance or detract from each other. The first year of the research will focus on bifunctional nanoparticles, combining the MRI tag and fluorescent tag. Daniel's lab will add targeting abilities to the multifunctional nanoparticles in the second year and the different chemotherapy drugs in the third year.
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