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:

PDT and PIT with Chemotherapy for Treatment of 3D Ovarian Cancer Nodules Under Flow and Static Conditions

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

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

T1-weighted imaging of primary pancreatic adenocarcinoma using magnetic ferumoxytol nanoparticles

Targeting WASp using Wiskostatin-gold nanoparticles

Use of a Triblock Copolymer Hydrogel for Controlled Release of Cisplatin and BMN-673

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

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

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

Injectable thermogelling cisplatin-loaded hydrogels for combined chemo-radiation therapy in cervical cancer

Online monitoring and image-guided treatment of chemoresistant micrometastases

Use of CT Texture Analysis for Characterization and Prognostication of Incidental Adnexal Lesions

Inhibiting DNA repair after nanoparticle-amplified radiation therapy

Investigation of a miRNA associated with cancer metastasis. Proj 2-Development of a novel nanoparticle for MPI analysis of thromboses

Small T Antigen Effect on Mitotic Proteins B-Myb and FOXM1

Assessment of Atherosclerotic Changes using Ferumoxytol as MRI Contrast Agent

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

Discovering the Genetic Mechanism of Enhanced Metastatic Colonization in SMAD4 Mutant Tumors

Development of Smart INCeRT Brachytherapy Spacers via PLGA and Docetaxel for Combined Chemo-Radiation Therapies in Prostate Cancer

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

Identification of novel therapeutic targets of the Notch1 signaling pathway

Quantification of SPION accumulation in tumors using positive-contrast MRI

Development of a novel nanogel for non-invasive transdermal delivery of cancer vaccines using hyaluronic acid

Characterization of Targeted PARP-inhibitor Nanoformulations In Vitro and In Vivo

Co-delivery of antibiotics and topoisomerase inhibitors to overcome chemoresistance

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