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NCI funds University research on targeted anti-cancer therapies

U-M scientists have received $6.8 million from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to develop targeted anti-cancer agents small enough to work inside a living cell. The research team's goal is to use these therapeutic agents to detect pre-malignant and cancerous biochemical changes within cells and then destroy the cells before they can grow into tumors.

This is the second research grant received by U-M scientists from the NCI's Unconventional Innovations Program, which supports high-risk, high-impact research with the potential to revolutionize cancer care.

"This new research fundingto support additional studies and development of our targeted anti-cancer therapeutic/imaging platformis a significant increase over our initial NCI grant received in 1999," says Dr. James R. Baker Jr., the study's principal investigator and the Ruth Dow Doan Professor of Biologic Nanotechnology in the Medical School.

"The increased funding recognizes our success during the first three years of the project," Baker says. "We demonstrated that we could produce these new therapeutic agents, that they were non-toxic and would target to tumor cells in animals. In the next phase of the research study, we will test the combined imaging and anti-tumor effects of these dendrimer-based agents in research animals."

U-M scientists use customized synthetic polymers called dendrimers as delivery vehicles to transport anti-cancer drugs and sensing agents into cells. The study is one of several major research programs underway in the U-M Center for Biologic Nanotechnologya multi-disciplinary group that focuses on biologic applications of nanomaterials. It involves 17 investigators from the Medical School, the College of Engineering and LSA.

Project co-investigators from the Medical School include: Brian D. Athey, assistant professor of cell and developmental biology; Lajos Balogh, assistant research scientist; Nicholas W. Beeson, senior research associate; Anna Bielinska, research investigator; Balazs L. Keszler, research associate; Jolanta F. Kukowska-Latallo, research investigator; Istvan J. Majoros, research investigator; Dr. Kevin T. McDonagh, assistant professor of internal medicine; James J. Mulè, Maude T. Lane Professor of Surgical Immunology; Andrzej Myc, research investigator; Anil K. Patri, research associate; and Thommey P. Thomas, assistant research scientist.

Co-investigators from the College of Engineering are Theodore B. Norris, professor of electrical engineering and computer science; Matthew O'Donnell, the Jerry W. and Carol L. Levin Professor of Engineering; and Jingyong Ye, visiting research scientist. From LSA, co-investigators are Mark Banaszak-Holl, associate professor of chemistry and Bradford G. Orr, professor of physics.

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