NCI Cancer Bulletin: A Trusted Source for Cancer Research NewsNCI Cancer Bulletin: A Trusted Source for Cancer Research News
October 18, 2005 • Volume 2 / Number 40 E-Mail This Document  |  Download PDF  |  Bulletin Archive/Search  |  Subscribe

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Director's Update

Guest Update by Dr. Anna Barker

Integrating Nanotechnology in Cancer Research

Dr. Anna Barker During the last few weeks we announced funding for three major components of the National Cancer Institute's (NCI's) Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer. These awards, which represent key milestones in NCI's Cancer Nanotechnology Plan, reflect the product of intense community planning and a long-term commitment to employ nanotechnology as a transformational force in cancer research.

All told, these components represent a comprehensive, national initiative designed to accelerate the application of nanotechnology's unique capabilities to cancer. We congratulate these investigator teams and their institutions for their vision and leadership. The recent announcements include funding for:

  • Centers of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence that will develop new, nanotechnology-based diagnostic and treatment tools;
  • Training programs that will establish a cadre of scientists with the cross-disciplinary expertise needed to develop the nanotech-based tools of the future; and,
  • Investigator teams that will create new "platform" nanotechnologies to enhance discovery and translational research.

A fourth component is the Nanotechnology Characterization Laboratory (NCL) based at NCI-Frederick. In collaboration with the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, NCL establishes standard analytical methods and data to assess nanoparticle interactions with biological systems, thereby informing medical product development.

With these awards, we will establish a pathway for cancer nanotechnology career development. The Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Awards training program will support postdoctoral and mid-career training. In addition, our partnership with the National Science Foundation and its highly successful Integrative Graduate Education Research Traineeship Program will provide funding to train graduate-level investigators in multidisciplinary areas such as biological, computational, and materials sciences.

The Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer builds on innovative technology platforms previously funded through the Unconventional Innovations Program. An example of an advanced technology, multifunctional nanoparticles capable of targeting vascular cells, drug delivery, and biosensing, will soon enter clinical trials. Dendrimer technologies have been applied in animal cancer models to simultaneously detect early stage tumors, deliver chemotherapeutic agents, and selectively kill targeted cancer cells. Quantum dots and molecular beacons are being used in many basic research laboratories to study dynamic interactions of novel therapeutics with their molecular targets. Nanowires and nanocantilevers are being prototyped for simultaneous detection of genes and proteins as molecular signatures of cancer in serum and tissue samples.

Any discussion of NCI's nanotechnology efforts would be incomplete without an expression of enormous gratitude to Dr. Mauro Ferrari. As one of the foremost experts in bio-nanotechnology, Dr. Ferrari helped NCI to define a strategy that emphasized teamwork, the exploitation of nanoscale biological properties, and a pathway to bring the benefits of nanotechnology to patients with cancer. Dr. Ferrari has now returned to his post at Ohio State University, but his leadership on this effort was invaluable.

To learn about the latest advances and news in the NCI Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer and nanotechnology-related cancer research, please visit our Web site at