Toning Down Cancer’s Aggressiveness

The fight against some cancers could depend on using nanotechnology to trick tumor cells into feeling well fed.

Story content courtesy of Northeastern University, US

Mansoor Amiji, Distinguished Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences at Northeastern University will collaborate with researchers at Northeastern and Massachusetts General Hospital to explore innovative drug delivery and gene-silencing strategies to target these cancers. Professor Amiji believes tumor cells—like people—become more aggressive in pursuit of nourishment when they’re “hungry.” He theorizes that clusters of cancer cells deep within a tumor, where they receive limited oxygen and other nutrients, have higher stress levels and are more aggressive in fighting off chemotherapy.

The researchers are working on using nanoparticles to permeate the parts of tumors where the aggressive cells live, carrying RNA molecules that would block messages from disease-causing genes. Cutting off that communication would prevent the tumor cells from developing certain proteins that make them aggressive. Dr. Amiji predicts suppressing their aggression—or “hunger”—could be a major breakthrough in treating highly aggressive ovarian and lung cancers.

“When living in this (hostile) environment, the threshold for killing tumor cells is much higher,” Amiji said. “We want the threshold to be minimal so low doses of chemotherapy will kill those cells and make the treatment safer.”

The research project is being funded by a five-year, $2.32 million Cancer Nanotechnology Platform Partnership grant from the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer program.

TechConnect News Note: Professor Mansoor Amiji is a featured speaker and workshop instructor at the annual NSTI-Nanotech, part of the TechConnect World conference. Professor Amiji will join us again next year when we head to Boston, MA for the 12th annual TechConnect World conference June 13-16, 2011. To view his workshop description for 2011, please visit:

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