The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded scientists from Emory University and the Georgia Institute of Technology two new collaborative research grants, totaling nearly $10 million, to establish a multidisciplinary research program in cancer nanotechnology and to develop a new class of nanoparticles for molecular and cellular imaging. Working at the sub-atomic level, these scientists are seeking data that will link molecular signatures (underlying molecular features), to patients' clinical outcomes, so that cancers can be predicted, detected earlier and treated more effectively. Although the primary focus of the new programs will be prostate cancer, the research will have broad applications to many types of tumors, including breast and colorectal cancer and lymphoma.
Dr. Shuming Nie, PhD, principal investigator of the project, is one of the first scientists in the world to utilize nanotechnology in the biomedical field. Used in manufacturing for many years, nanotechnology enables scientists to build devices and materials one atom or molecule at a time, creating tightly packed structures that take on new properties by virtue of their miniature size. A nanometer is one-billionth of a meter, or about 100,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair. Most animal cells are 10,000 - 20,000 nanometers in diameter, so nanoscale devices are tiny enough to enter cells and analyze DNA and proteins, potentially identifying and treating cancerous cells at much earlier stages than currently possible.
The National Cancer Institute has awarded a five-year grant of $7.1 million to establish a multidisciplinary Bioengineering Research Partnership (BRP) in cancer nanotechnology. This partnership will integrate the bioengineering strengths of Georgia Tech and the cancer biology and clinical oncology expertise of Emory University School of Medicine and the Winship Cancer Institute. The new program is part of the joint Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory, established in 1997, and ranked second in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.
"This Bioengineering Research Partnership (BRP) will incorporate expertise in bioengineering, bioinformatics, tumor biology, bioanalytical chemistry, systems biology, as well as hematology, oncology, pathology and urology," said Shuming Nie, PhD, principal investigator of the project. "The goal of the program is to develop nanotechnology tools for linking molecular signatures to cancer behavior and clinical outcome." Dr. Nie is a Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Scholar, an associate professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University and director of cancer nanotechnology at Emory's Winship Cancer Institute.
In addition, the National Institute of General Medical Sciences has awarded Emory and Georgia Tech a four-year, $2.7 million exploratory center grant to develop nanoparticle probes for molecular and cellular imaging of cancer. This funding is part of the new NIH Roadmap Initiative.
Bill Todd, president of the Georgia Cancer Coalition said, "Dr. Nie's accomplishments are a great source of pride for both the Georgia Cancer Coalition and the state of Georgia. These two research grants, totaling $10 million, will help move us closer to developing new treatment techniques and possible cures for cancer. We are very enthusiastic about being part of the process to move this technology from the laboratory to the bedside in the fight against cancer."
"The State of Georgia is breaking new ground," said Governor Sonny Perdue. "As we foster greater collaboration among our fine universities and growing biotech sector, we will see tremendous innovation, resulting in greater economic growth for the state and better, more effective prevention, treatment and care for cancer patients everywhere.