Backed by two collaborative research grants totaling $10 million, Georgia Tech and Emory University will plunge into developing cancer-fighting nanotechnology. A $7.1 million grant from the National Cancer Institute will be used to integrate Georgia Tech's bioengineering strengths with the Emory University School of Medicine and the Winship Cancer Institute's clinical oncology experience. The $2.7 million award from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences will help the universities develop nanoparticle probes for molecular and cellular cancer imaging.
Today's most common diagnostic techniques don't find tumors until they're large enough to metastasize to a different location in the body. By that time, they're more difficult to treat. Because most animal cells are 10,000 to 20,000 nm in diameter, nanoscale devices would be small enough to enter cells and analyze DNA and proteins. They could then potentially identify and treat cancerous cells much sooner than currently possible.
The partnership will develop advanced nanoparticle technologies for profiling biomarkers on cancer cells and tissue specimens. A database will collect these molecular signatures and link them to specific clinical outcomes, providing records for future diagnoses. The partnership also hopes to develop imaging microscopes and software integrated with the new nanotechnology.
Research will focus on prostate cancer, which kills 40,000 men a year. Yet the researchers believe their results will have broad applications for many types of tumors, including breast and colorectal cancer and lymphoma. So far, researchers have used bioconjugated quantum dots--nanometer-sized luminescent semiconductor crystals--to simultaneously target and image prostate tumors in living mice.
For more information, go to www.gatech.edu or www.whsc.emory.edu.