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  • Posted: 10/03/2005

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National Cancer Institute Awards $26.3 Million to Establish Seven Centers of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence

The National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), today announced the implementation of a major component of its $144.3 million five-year initiative for nanotechnology in cancer research. First year awards totaling $26.3 million will help establish seven Centers of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence (CCNEs).

"We believe that nanotechnology will have a transformative effect on cancer diagnosis and treatment. In fact, its impact is already visible in the research being conducted through many of the centers we are announcing today," said Andrew von Eschenbach, M.D., director of the National Cancer Institute. "Through the applications of nanotechnology, we will increase the rate of progress towards eliminating the suffering and death due to cancer."

Nanotechnology, the development and engineering of devices so small that they are measured on a molecular scale, has demonstrated promising results in cancer research and treatment. NCI launched the plan to create the NCI Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer in September 2004, as a comprehensive, integrated initiative to develop and translate cancer-related nanotechnology research into clinical practice.

NCI's Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer encompasses four major program components, including the CCNEs. CCNEs are multi-institutional hubs that will focus on integrating nanotechnology into basic and applied cancer research and provide new solutions for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

Each of the CCNE awardees is associated with one or more NCI-designated Cancer Centers, affiliated with schools of engineering and physical sciences, and partnered with not-for-profit organizations and/or private sector firms, with the specific intent of advancing the technologies being developed.

Today's CCNE awardees (in alphabetical order) are:

  • Carolina Center of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, N.C. This center will focus on the fabrication of "smart" or targeted nanoparticles and other nanodevices for cancer therapy and imaging. Principal investigator: Rudolph Juliano, Ph.D. (University of North Carolina).
  • Center of Nanotechnology for Treatment, Understanding, and Monitoring of Cancer, University of California, San Diego, Calif. This center will focus on a smart, multifunctional, all-in-one platform capable of targeting tumors and delivering payloads of therapeutics. Principal investigator: Sadik Esener, Ph.D. (UCSD).
  • Emory-Georgia Tech Nanotechnology Center for Personalized and Predictive Oncology, Atlanta, Ga. This center will aim to innovate and accelerate the development of nanoparticles attached to biological molecules for cancer molecular imaging, molecular profiling and personalized therapy. Principal investigators: Shuming Nie, Ph.D., and Jonathan Simons, M.D. (Emory University and Georgia Institute of Technology).
  • MIT-Harvard Center of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence, Cambridge, Mass. This center will focus on diversified nanoplatforms for targeted therapy, diagnostics, noninvasive imaging, and molecular sensing. Principal investigators: Robert Langer, Ph.D. (MIT), and Ralph Weissleder, M.D., Ph.D. (Harvard University, Massachusetts General Hospital).
  • Nanomaterials for Cancer Diagnostics and Therapeutics, Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill. This center plans to design and test nanomaterials and nanodevices to improve cancer prevention, detection, diagnosis and treatment. Principal investigator: Chad Mirkin, Ph.D. (Northwestern University).
  • Nanosystems Biology Cancer Center, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif. This center will focus on the development and validation of tools for early detection and stratification of cancer through rapid and quantitative measurement of panels of serum and tissue-based biomarkers. Principal investigator: James Heath, Ph.D. (California Institute of Technology).
  • The Siteman Center of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence at Washington University, St. Louis, Mo. This center has a comprehensive set of projects for the development of nanoparticles for in vivo imaging and drug delivery, with special emphasis on translational medicine. Principal investigator: Samuel Wickline, M.D. (Washington University).

"NCI has supported the application of nanotechnology to cancer through a variety of programs and interactions with the scientific community for more than seven years, and we're very gratified that our activities are helping to advance a pipeline of new product opportunities," noted NCI Deputy Director Anna Barker, Ph.D. "In what we believe will be a paradigm shift for cancer research, unprecedented numbers of multidisciplinary teams of basic and clinical researchers at world-class institutions are networking their research together to focus on the key cancer nanotech opportunities. The depth and diversity of the Centers of Nanotechnology Excellence award submissions were extraordinary. With the advent of the CCNEs, we are particularly looking forward to new nanotech-based therapeutic delivery systems that could enhance the efficacy and tolerability of cancer treatments - an advance that would greatly benefit cancer patients."

Other components of the NCI Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer include the following:

  • Cancer Nanotechnology Platform Partnerships are tightly focused programs designed to develop the technologies to underpin new products in six key programmatic areas: molecular imaging and early detection, in vivo imaging, reporters of efficacy (e.g., real-time assessment of treatment), multifunctional therapeutics, prevention and control, and research enablers (opening new pathways for research). These 12, five-year awards, with first-year funding totaling $7 million dollars, will be announced this month.
  • The Nanotechnology Characterization Laboratory (NCL), established at NCI's Frederick, Md., facility earlier this year, performs analytical tests to guide the research community, support regulatory decisions, and help identify and monitor environmental, health and safety ramifications of nanotech applications. The NCL recently completed its first year of operation and is actively characterizing nanoparticles for academic and commercial researchers through a rigorous set of analytical protocols. The NCL works in concert with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). For more information, please visit http://ncl.cancer.gov.
  • Multidisciplinary research training and team development: The application of nanotechnology to cancer requires cross-disciplinary training in biological and physical sciences. The Alliance will support training and career development initiatives to establish integrated teams of cancer researchers, through mechanisms such as the NIH National Research Service Awards for Senior Fellows and the NIH National Research Service Awards for Postdoctoral Fellows. Applications are now being accepted for training awards (http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/rfa-files/RFA-CA-06-010.html). In addition, through NCI's collaboration with the National Science Foundation, $12.8 million in grants were awarded last month to four institutions over the next five years for U.S. science and engineering doctoral students to focus on interdisciplinary nanoscience and technology research with applications to cancer (http://www.cancer.gov/newscenter/pressreleases/NCINSFIGERT).

For more information about the NCI Alliance on Nanotechnology in Cancer, please visit http://nano.cancer.gov.

For more information about cancer, please visit the NCI Web site at http://www.cancer.gov or call NCI's Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237).

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