Center for Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence
Focused on Therapy Response (CCNE-TR)

Overall CCNE-TR Vision

Like the National Cancer Institute (NCI), we believe that nanoscience applied to cancer research is critical to the future of eliminating cancer, and we are convinced that nanotechnology will make a significant impact on cancer diagnosis and management in potentially revolutionary ways. Ex vivo diagnostics used in conjunction with in vivo diagnostics can markedly impact future cancer patient management by providing a synergy that neither strategy alone can offer. Nanotechnology can significantly advance both ex vivo diagnostics through proteomic nanosensors and in vivo diagnostics through nanoparticles for molecular imaging. Yet there is still much work to be done because clinical tools have not been developed that can help oncologists reliably to predict which patients will respond to a specific anti-cancer therapy regimen and to monitor patients' responses while undergoing a given therapy. Without these tools, many patients must endure multiple therapies until a successful therapeutic regime can be found. If methods could be developed that would allow the accurate prediction and assessment of a given individual's response to therapy, then marked improvements in cancer management would likely occur (see the Figure below).


Our goal is to develop and validate nanotechnology so that we will eventually be able to predict which patients will likely respond to a specific anti-cancer therapy and to monitor their response to therapy. Through an integrated, cohesive five-year plan, we are pursuing the use of ex vivo protein nanosensors and in vivo nanoparticles (quantum dots) for molecular imaging. As shown in the left panel above, our future vision is that eventually patients will have their tumors biopsied and blood samples drawn for protein profiling by ex vivo nanosensors to predict their response to a given therapy. In addition, they will also be imaged by a ring scanner, as shown above, with molecular imaging probes of different types to predict their response. Posttreatment and potentially during treatment, patient response will be evaluated by blood analysis, usually without another biopsy, and molecular imaging to ensure the accurate differentiation of responders from non-responders. To achieve this clinical potential, nanotechnology will first be developed as well as tested in small animal models and will eventually be translated to the clinic.

Where it Begins

While nanotechnology has the potential to greatly impact ex vivo proteomics and in vivo diagnostics through molecular imaging for early cancer detection, it must first be validated through the more tractable problem of impacting the management of later stage cancers. Because there are more cancer cells present in advanced disease, there are likely to be more changes in the proteome to detect ex vivo as well as more protein targets for molecular imaging probes in vivo. With its capacity to provide enormous sensitivity, throughput, and flexibility, nanotechnology has the potential to profoundly impact cancer patient management in the coming years.