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Peptide-Directed Protocells and Virus-Like Particles:
New Nanoparticle Platforms for Targeted Delivery of Multicomponent Cargos
University of New Mexico

Principal Investigators: Cheryl Willman, M.D., and C. Jeffrey Brinker, Ph.D.

Project Summary

Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL), a disease characterized by the uncontrolled proliferation of malignant lymphocytes leading to the suppression of normal hematopoiesis, is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in children. Current therapies result in the induction of long term remission in 80% of pediatric ALL patients. However, death from relapsed ALL remains the second leading cause of mortality in children (surpassed only by deaths caused by accidents). In addition, children who enter remission suffer from significant life altering short - and long-term complications due to the side effects of the cytotoxic therapies. Therefore, new generations of therapies are required both to enhance survival and improve quality of life in pediatric ALL patients.

In this project, a multidisciplinary research group led by Drs. William and Brinker, uses genomic technologies to identify novel therapeutic targets in high-risk pediatric ALL and develops xenograft models for in vivo testing of novel therapeutic strategies for leukemia with two new powerful and versatile targeted nanoparticle delivery systems: virus-like particles and nanoporous nanoparticle-supported lipid bilayers (termed protocells). Each nanoparticle is directed with peptides identified by a high-complexity virus-like particle (VLP) affinity selection technology or specific receptor ligands. This approach promises the development of universal nanocarrier platforms enabling the delivery of therapeutics imaging and contrast agents to Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia with unprecedented selectivity and minimal therapeutic side effects.

Project Goal

The goal of this project is to develop generic, universal nanoparticle platforms tailored to target, identify, and treat arbitrary, select, and often minute populations of cancer cells in high-risk Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia patients.