Jul 20, 2019 | Updated: 08:54 AM EDT

Researchers Strategize to Maximize the Use of Nanotechnology in Cancer Therapeutics

Apr 23, 2019 10:58 PM EDT

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Researchers from the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center presented new and innovative strategies for using small particles similar to the size of a DNA molecule or similar to the width of a human hair to improve cancer treatment. This strategy is a part of the Carolina Center of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence/National Cancer Institute site visit last Tuesday.

The researchers of this strategy are known members of the Carolina Center of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence. They had delivered updates on their study into using nanotechnology to improve cancer treatment. During the meeting, they talked about the progress of their study and they presented the development at the Carolina Club.

"The Carolina Center for Cancer Nanotechnology program has done a lot to promote cancer nanomedicine research at UNC," said Leaf Huang, PhD, a member of UNC Lineberger and the Fred Eshelman Distinguished Professor in the Division of Pharmacoengineering and Molecular Therapeutics. "Our center takes a unique approach among all nanotechnology-focused centers supported by the National Cancer Institute, working on innovations for nano-formulated therapeutics that could impact the tumor microenvironment and boost the immune system, among other strategies."

The meeting included a presentation on the study by Huang. He talked about the potential use of a nanoparticle formulation of a specific drug that can impact the blood vessel dilation around a patient's tumor. UNC Lineberger's Alexander Kabanov, PhD, DrSci, Mescal S. Ferguson Distinguished Professor in the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy, talked about using nanoparticles to give multiple therapeutics in a simultaneous manner. UNC Lineberger's Andrew Wang, MD, associate professor in the UNC School of Medicine department of radiation oncology, talked about the efforts to make nanoparticle formulations to give precision medicine-derived cancer vaccines.

UNC Lineberger's Jenny P. Y. Ting, PhD, William Rand Kenan Professor of Genetics, talked about her laboratory's ongoing study into microparticles to give molecular packages into immune scouts to help active cancer-killing cells to fight a patient's tumor.

The immune system scouts are dendritic or macrophages cells that travel through the body searching for any invaders. The scouts are then charged with activating and alerting T-cells, which is a type of immune cell, to fight and kill tumors or any invading microbial pathogens. Ting's laboratory has studied a way to stimulate the scouts so that the T-cell activation can ramp up.

"Our focus right now is on microparticles because there are studies to show that at a certain size, they get preferentially taken up by what we call 'antigen-presenting cells,' which are dendritic cells, and macrophages, and they are the ones that can present any foreign antigen to T-cells to activate them," Ting said. "So, the whole idea is that if we can ramp up these macrophages, we can ramp up T-cell activation."

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