Earlier this month, cancer biologists, engineers, chemists, and clinicians convened at two cancer nanotechology symposia to develop a vision for integrating nanotechnology into cancer research. Several leading investigators from the public and private sectors participated in these meetings, which were held at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, Calif., and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (FHCRC) in Seattle, Wash. In addition to promoting new types of multidisciplinary teamwork, these symposia allowed NCI to obtain input on its Cancer Nanotechnology Plan (CNP), a strategic approach for developing new nanotechnology tools to accelerate clinical and research advances. Complete agendas for both meetings are available from NCI's Office of Technology and Industrial Relations Web site.
At these symposia, Dr. Mauro Ferrari, professor of biomedical engineering and internal medicine at Ohio State University, presented seven key strategic challenges to be addressed in the CNP: fundamental science, prevention and control, early detection, imaging diagnostics, multifunctional therapeutics, nanosystems for quality of life, and training. He also described NCI's plan for a laboratory focusing on biological characterization of nanoparticles. This laboratory will catalyze a confluence of nanotechnology and cancer research by developing protocols for validation, comparison, and objective evaluation of nanodevices for cancer and by creating a public database for research dissemination.
Several presentations at both meetings elaborated on CNP's seven strategic challenges. At the La Jolla symposium, the keynote speakers highlighted the need for multifunctional nanoparticles. Dr. Leroy Hood, president of the Institute for Systems Biology, spoke about how a diverse panel of interventions is required to address the multiple malfunctions that lead to cancer. The second keynote speaker, Dr. James R. Baker, Jr., director of the Center for Biologic Nanotechnology at the University of Michigan Medical School, described how a single type of nanoparticle can be engineered to have diverse capabilities for detecting cancer, delivering therapies, and monitoring the efficacy of treatments.
In Seattle, the keynote talks focused on the need to develop nanodevices to enable cancer imaging. Dr. Douglas Hanahan, professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of California, San Francisco, described the use of imaging techniques in mouse models to identify molecular targets and to monitor the ability of drugs to influence these targets. Dr. Samuel Wickline, professor of medicine, physics, and biomedical engineering at Washington University in St. Louis, discussed the functionality of multivalent lipid-based nanoparticles to target angiogenesis for imaging and therapy.
At the conclusion of the Seattle symposium, Dr. Ferrari and FHCRC Director Dr. Lee Hartwell led a roundtable discussion that identified several scientific priorities that should be considered within the framework of the CNP, including monitoring modifications of biological response during therapy to help shorten the pathway to regulatory approval, developing new models for studying cancer, detecting cancer earlier in its natural history through imaging or serum-based methods, providing new approaches for contrasting tumor tissue to normal tissue at important stages of tumor development, and accelerating the detection of therapeutic efficacy.
Building on the success of the La Jolla and Seattle meetings, NCI plans to convene additional cancer nanotechnology symposia over the next several months. In addition to promoting new cross-disciplinary dialogue, these symposia will help engage the extramural scientific community in NCI's planning efforts to ultimately bring a new nanotechnology toolkit to the nation's cancer researchers.