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Theranostic Nanoparticles for Targeted Treatment of Pancreatic Cancer
Emory University

Principal Investigators: Lily Yang, M.D., Ph.D., and Hui Mao, Ph.D.

Project Summary

Pancreatic cancer treatment presents one of the biggest challenges in clinical oncology as many patients with advanced pancreatic cancer do not respond to currently available chemotherapies and radiotherapies, and the prognosis for these patients is one of the worst among all cancer types. The overall objective of this project is to develop a multifunctional theranostic nanoparticle platform that combines demonstrated imaging capability and receptor specificity of the nanoparticles with novel designs for tumor-targeted drug delivery. Taking advantage of surface functions and unique pharmacokinetic properties of nanoparticles, this drug delivery platform provides a potential solution for overcoming physical and intrinsic barriers that confer drug resistance in pancreatic cancer. The research team led by Drs. Yang and Mao has developed the magnetic iron oxide nanoparticle (IONP) based nanoconstructs that are targeted to cellular receptors, such as the urokinase plasminogen activator receptor (uPAR). These nanoconstructs have been shown to facilitate drug-carrying nanoparticles' penetration of the tumor endothelial cell layer, the destruction of tumor stromal fibroblasts, and the improvement of intracellular drug delivery by receptor-mediated endocytosis. In this project, the research team will further develop strategies and methods for controlled loading and releasing of single or multiple therapeutic agents, such as chemotherapy drugs, small molecules, and siRNA-expressing DNA cassettes, into the pancreatic cancer cells.

Project Goal

The overarching goal of this research project is to develop a novel theranostic magnetic iron oxide nanoparticle (IONP) platform that enables both tumor-targeted imaging and drug delivery for effective treatment of pancreatic cancer.