Research Highlight

Analysis of SDF-1 and its receptor CXCR4. Staining of SDF-1 (a,b) and the SDF-1-CXCR4 complex (c,d) in mammary tissues. The left panels show normal tissues, and the right panels show tumor tissues. Source:

Targeting CXCR4/SDF-1a using phytochemicals to inhibit progression and metastasis of pancreatic cancer

Pancreatic cancer (PANC) is one of the deadliest cancers with its metastasis being the primary cause of death. It has been recognized that pancreatic cancer stem cells (CSCs) are primarily responsible for metastasis initiation and expansion to secondary sites. Recent research indicates that C-X-C chemokine receptor type 4 (CXCR4) plays a central role in cancer progression and metastasis. Overexpression of CXCR4 is a major cause of the direction of PANC metastasis to specific organs that overexpress the CXCR4 ligand, stromal-derived-factor-1α (SDF-1α). CXCR4 is overexpressed and the CXCR4/SDF-1α axis is activated in pancreatic CSCs. Therefore, effective regimens against PANC progression and metastasis should directly inhibit pancreatic CSCs and inactivate the CXCR4/SDF-1α signaling axis. There are preliminary studies that show that the bioactive compound tanshinone I (T1) has had potent activity against pancreatic CSCs and with down-regulating SDF-1α expression. We also found that the bioactive compound ampelopsin (AMP) inhibited metastasis and down-regulated CXCR4 expression. Moreover, T1 and AMP showed minimal adverse effects. Therefore, our hypothesis is that the T1 and AMP combination can have a synergistic effect on inhibiting growth and metastasis of PANC by inactivating cooperatively the CXCR4/SDF-1α axis. In this study, we will first apply the in vitro system to determine the effect of T1 and AMP, alone and in combinations, on the growth and invasion of PANC cells, and expression levels of CXCR4 and SDF-1α. We will then determine the effect of T1 and AMP combinations on self-renewal of pancreatic CSCs and expression levels of CXCR4 and SDF-1α.



Trainee Research

CaNCURE provides trainees with a 6-month hands-on research experience and one-on-one mentoring by leading researchers in cancer nanomedicine.   Projects performed by current and past participants include:

Localized chemo- and chemo-radiation for the treatment of prostate cancer

Uptake and localization of nanoparticles in prostate and lung cancer cells as a function of time and nanoparticle type

Optimization of macrophage-targeted nanoparticles for positron emission tomography imaging in cancer

Investigating the use of Feraheme to monitor the immune response by PET in general inflammation and specific immune cell populations

Radiotherapeutic synergism of thermogelling cisplatin-loaded polymers for cervical cancer treatment

Biological mechanisms of gold nanoparticle-enhanced radiation therapy of prostate cancer

Evaluation of deep learning approaches in an integrated PET/MRI scanner to generate pelvis attenuation maps and characterize prostate cancer

Development of a Point of Care Assay for Detecting High Risk HPV in Resource Limited Settings

Clinical immunotherapy application in metastatic glioblastoma

Nano-plasmonic exosome (nPLEX) assays for exosome analysis and antibody validation

MCT1 Transporter Inhibition of IMR90 Cells Expressing Inducible Merkel Cell Carcinoma Small T Antigen

Quantitative Multimodal Imaging of Tumor Response to Radiation

Digital diffraction diagnostics for lymphoma and HPV

Assessment of Atherosclerotic Changes using Ferumoxytol as MRI Contrast Agent

Online monitoring and image-guided treatment of chemoresistant micrometastases

Inhibiting DNA repair after nanoparticle-amplified radiation therapy

Nanoencapsulation of tyrosine kinase inhibitors and their effects on pathway inhibition

Investigating the use of iron chelator deferoxamine (DFO)-bearing PEG-like nanoprobes as a multifunctional agent for cancer therapy and PET imaging

The Assessment and Comparison of Ferumoxtran as Contrast Imaging Agent in Patients with Pancreatic Cancers.

Assessing the reproducibility of MRI-based brain tumor measurements between both observers and MRI vendors

Pharmacokinetic analysis of changes in temozolomide distribution after antiangiogenic treatment of glioblastoma

Surface-targeting, ligand-switching nanoparticles for mitochondrial drug delivery in prostate cancer

Identifying genomic and compound dependencies in undifferentiated sarcomas

Implementation of novel MR-based attenuation correction in PET/MR pelvic scans

Targeting WASp using Wiskostatin-gold nanoparticles

Soleil Doggett (Biology, '16) talks to her fellow peers about her research on oxygenating tumors to stimulate the anti-tumor immune response.


Trainee e-portfolios

Photo credit: Tom Kates Photography

While on co-op, trainees document their research in an e-portfolio.  This gives trainees the opportunity to provide regular updates on their research progress, reflect on training they are receiving, and explain how their research fits within the field of cancer nanomedicine.  These research e-portfolios can be accessed through individual trainee profiles.  The complete collection may be found here.

Check out this month’s featured e-portfolios by Rachel Fontana and Jordan Harris!


Presentation at CaNCURE Nanomedicine Day

At the completion of their co-op, trainees are provided with the opportunity to present their research to a wider audience.  In our 1st annual CaNCURE Nanomedicine Day, trainees prepared interactive, digital posters to display on electronic poster boards.  Over 100 faculty, students, and researchers attended our first event!

Check out the news article and congrats to all the poster winners!

Jordan Harris: Most Innovative Cancer Research Award
Jeremy Thong: Best Undergraduate Research Poster Award
Craig Pille: Most Promising Translational Research Award
Bryan Kynnap: Most Promising Basic Science Award
Jordan Harris: Top Chemical Engineering Poster Award