Research Highlight

Confocal images of cells that have been treated with 2Gy radiation with (right) and without (left) GNPs. Blue represents a dapi staining of the nuclei, red represents the γH2AX protein, and green represents the Rad51 protein. γH2AX protein accumulates at DNA damage sites and is responsible for recruiting DNA repair proteins. It is commonly used as a DNA damage marker. Rad51 is another protein responsible for repairing DNA double strand breaks. As it can be seen with the image, cells pre-treated with GNPs have higher concentrations of γH2AX and Rad51 and hence did experience more DNA damage.

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

Radiation therapy is one of the most commonly used cancer treatments. It is damaging to not only cancer cells but also to healthy cells, limiting the amount of radiation that can be administered to patients. The combination of gold nanoparticles (GNPs) and radiotherapy has become a prominent area of research for cancer treatment. Previous research has shown that GNPs act as radiosensitizers, making cancerous cells more susceptible to radiotherapy. Using GNPs to kill more cancer cells with lower radiation doses reduces the severity of side effects. This characteristic can be attributed to gold's high atomic number and its ability to produce photoelectrons and Auger electrons. Photoelectrons are released when an inner shell electron absorbs a high-energy beam and leaves the atom in a high-energy state. Auger electrons are released when higher shell electrons move to an inner shell to stabilize the atom. These electrons are responsible for damaging cancer cells even further. Due to their low energy, they do not travel far from the cancer site and are less likely to damage healthy cells. Another advantage of using gold, compared to other high atomic number elements, is its imaging contrast, biocompatibility and lower toxicity (1). The aim of this research is to see how GNPs coupled with different radiation doses impact cellular mechanisms of the Capan-1 cell line. Radiation kills cancer cells by damaging their DNA or by creating free radicals that in turn damage DNA (1). By focusing on expression of proteins that are in relation with apoptosis, cell proliferation and DNA repair/damage as well as the change in reactive oxygen species within the cells, it is possible to see the cellular mechanisms of how GNPs radiosensitize cells. (1) Ngwa, W., Kumar, R., Sidhar S., Korideck, H., Zygmanski, P., Cormack, R., Berbeco, R., Makrigiorgos G. M. Targeted radiotherapy with gold nanoparticles: current status and future perspectives. Nanomedicine. (2014); 9(7): 1063-1082.



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:

Clinical immunotherapy application in metastatic glioblastoma

Digital diffraction diagnostics for lymphoma and HPV

Quantification of SPION accumulation in tumors using positive-contrast MRI

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

miRNA analysis in mouse model of metastatic breast cancer. (Proj 2) The inhibition of PD-L1 on a Pan02 cell line w/ siRNA-nanodrug & gemcitabine treatment

Online monitoring and image-guided treatment of chemoresistant micrometastases

In vivo imaging of targeted drug delivery to HER2 positive cancer cells

Iron-chelating PEG-like nanoprobes as therapeutic and 89Zr/PET imaging agents

Nanoencapsulation of tyrosine kinase inhibitors and their effects on pathway inhibition

Optimizing murine cells for in vitro modeling of high-grade serous ovarian cancer

Identifying genomic and compound dependencies in undifferentiated sarcomas

Capture of circulating tumor DNA through the use of biotinylated poly-lysine affixed to gold nanoparticles

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

Assessment of Atherosclerotic Changes using Ferumoxytol as MRI Contrast Agent

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

Quantitative Multimodal Imaging of Tumor Response to Radiation

Tracking pancreatic adenocarcinoma response to treatment using targeted, multi-modal nanoparticles

Co-delivery of protective substrate and chemotherapy drugs via lipid Bilayer Mesoporous Silica Nanoparticles

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

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

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

Erythropoietin improves antitumor immune response through reversal of the hypoxic tumor microenvironment

Development of PSMA-targeting nanoparticles for positron emitting tomography imaging in prostate cancer using animal models

Combined delivery of targeted liposomal chemotherapeutics and photodynamic therapy to treat pancreatic cancer

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

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