National Cancer Institute Announces Major Commitment to Nanotechnology for Cancer Research
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) announced today at a media briefing a new $144.3 million, five-year initiative to develop and apply
nanotechnology to cancer. Nanotechnology, the development and engineering of devices so small that they are measured on a molecular scale, has
already demonstrated promising results in cancer research and treatment.
"Nanotechnology has the potential to radically increase our options for prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer," said Andrew von
Eschenbach, M.D., director of the National Cancer Institute. "NCI's commitment to this cancer initiative comes at a critical time.
Nanotechnology supports and expands the scientific advances in genomics and proteomics and builds on our understanding of the molecular
underpinnings of cancer. These are the pillars which will support progress in cancer."
To carry out this initiative, the NCI, part of the National Institutes of Health, is forming the NCI Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer,
a comprehensive, integrated initiative encompassing researchers, clinicians, and public and private organizations that have joined forces to
develop and translate cancer-related nanotechnology research into clinical practice.
"The Alliance lays out a process to safely accelerate the application of nanotechnology to cancer research," said NCI Deputy Director Anna
Barker, Ph.D. "Central to this initiative will be multidisciplinary partnerships involving physicists, biologists, clinicians, engineers, and
other experts that can translate knowledge on cancer and nanotechnology into clinically useful products."
The new NCI Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer is one of the first steps in implementing the Cancer Nanotechnology Plan, which was
developed over the past 18 months with the input of a broad cross-section of the cancer research and clinical oncology communities. The NCI
Alliance consists of four major program activities:
Centers of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence (CCNEs): The primary goal of the CCNEs is to integrate nanotechnology
development into basic and applied cancer research. Each center will be affiliated with a NCI Comprehensive Cancer Center, university, or
research center of engineering and physical science. By leveraging existing NCI resources, these centers will bridge gaps in the development
pipeline from materials discovery to preclinical testing.
Multidisciplinary research teams: Given the multidisciplinary nature of nanotechnology research, investigators
with basic science and clinical backgrounds will require training to optimize the development and translation of nanotechnologies toward
clinical oncology applications. The NCI will initially use existing career development mechanisms to direct talent to this area, create
incentives for cross-disciplinary research, and foster collaboration through training.
Nanotechnology platforms for cancer research: Over the next five years, investigator-initiated and directed
project research will be supported in six key programmatic areas: molecular imaging and early detection, in vivo imaging, reporters of efficacy
(e.g., real-time assessment of treatment), multifunctional therapeutics, prevention and control, and research enablers (opening new pathways
Nanotechnology Characterization Laboratory (NCL): The NCL will perform and standardize the pre-clinical
characterization of nanomaterials developed by researchers from academia, government, and industry. The NCL will serve as a national resource
and knowledge base for cancer researchers, and facilitate the accelerated regulatory review and translation of nanomaterials and devices into
the clinical realm.
The NCI recently signed a memorandum of understanding and an interagency agreement with the National Institute of Standards and Technology
to partner with the NCI in this characterization and standardization effort. The NCI will also be working to expand collaborations with the
U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to help define the critical pathway for nanotechnologies to reach the clinic.
Among the key components of the Cancer Nanotechnology Plan are milestones to measure success over two time periods. Within the first three
years, the plan calls for acceleration of projects that hold promise for near-term clinical application. After three years, the Alliance will
focus on developing solutions to address more difficult technological and biological problems that have the potential to impact detection and
"We are already seeing how nanotechnology is transforming our ability to translate research advances into clinical advances," said Samuel
Wickline, M.D., Professor of Medicine, Physics and Biomedical Engineering at Washington University, St. Louis, Mo., and NCI grantee for
nanotechnology research. "The possibilities are enormous for finding very small cancers far earlier than ever before and treating them with
powerful drugs at the tumor site alone, while at the same time reducing any harmful side effects. This initiative will allow us to explore
using this technology to its full potential."
Recent advances in cancer treatment involving nanotechnology include:
- Liposomes, the "first generation" of nanoscale drug delivery devices, were developed to deliver anticancer therapeutics
directly at tumors. Specifically, liposomal doxorubicin is being used to treat certain forms of cancer, while liposomal amphotericin B treats
fungal infections often associated with aggressive anticancer treatments.
- Recently, a nanoparticulate formulation of the well-known anticancer compound taxol was submitted to the FDA as a new
treatment for advanced-stage breast cancer.
Other clinical applications of nanotechnology have focused on identifying cancer in its earliest stages, visualizing development of the
disease, delivering improved therapy to increase the effectiveness and reduce side effects of drugs, and capturing early signals of drug
For additional information about the NCI Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer, please go to: http://nano.cancer.gov.
To view an archived copy of the video Web cast of the NCI press briefing on the Nanotechnology Cancer Alliance, please go to: http://videocast.nih.gov/PastEvents.asp.
For more information about cancer, please visit the NCI Web site at http://www.cancer.gov or call NCI's Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237).