Researcher awarded millions to develop nanotechnology drug delivery systems

Researcher awarded millions to develop nanotechnology drug delivery systems

A researcher at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) School of Medicine has been granted two awards from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop nanotechnology drug delivery systems for patients with breast cancer and those at risk of serious blood clots.

The R01 awards will be provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the National Heart Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) to Nicole F Steinmetz, PhD, George J. Picha professor in biomaterials, member of the Case Comprehensive cancer Center and director of the Center for Bio-Nanotechnology at CWRU School of Medicine.

“Nanoparticle engineering is an evolving field, with enormous potential in molecular imaging and therapeutics,” stated Steinmetz. “We are thrilled that the NIH is supportive of this new frontier in medicine.”

From NCI, Steinmetz will receive a $2.2 million grant for the development of therapeutic nanotechnology specifically aimed at triple negative breast cancer patients. As triple negative breast cancer cells do not have surface receptors (commonly used by drug developers for therapeutic delivery) treatment options for about 15% of patients is limited.

Last year, Steinmetz and colleagues found virus-like particles from a plant virus (cowpea mosaic virus) that can stimulate the immune system to fight tumours and prevent outgrowth of metastasis. With the funding, Steinmetz and colleagues will explore the mechanisms behind the anti-tumour effects and develop dual-pronged therapeutic approaches through drug delivery strategies.

“These plant virus-like particles have cancer fighting qualities on their own, but they can also be used as vehicles to encapsulate therapeutics, such as chemo- and immune drugs to synergise and potentiate the cancer immunotherapy,” Steinmetz added. “With the new grant, we will test whether combining the particles with breast cancer medications can combat breast cancer in mice.”

Separately, the NHLBI will award $2.6 million for the development of nanotechnology to identify deep vein thromboses before they become fatal. “We are developing a biology-derived plant virus nanotechnology, here using the tobacco mosaic virus, for molecular imaging and drug delivery,” Steinmetz continued. “The non-invasive MRI approach will allow us to gain molecular information about the thrombus, therefore, aiding prognosis. By integrating imaging and therapeutic capabilities, our approach will help diagnose patients, treat the disease and monitor disease progression over time.”

The grants will be awarded this summer and will last for five years. If the projects are successful, they will be eligible for renewal.