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National Cancer Institute
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NanoSystems Biology Cancer Center 2
California Institute of Technology

Center Investigators

James Heath, Ph.D.
Principal Investigator


Leroy Hood, M.D., Ph.D.
Principal Investigator


Michael Phelps, Ph.D.
Principal Investigator


Project 1: Organ-Specific, Blood Protein Biomarkers for an Informative Diagnosis of Brain and Ovarian Cancers: Technologies for Rapid Evaluation, Validation, and Clinical Translation

Project Investigators: Leroy Hood, M.D., Ph.D., and James Heath, Ph.D.
This Project is focused on developing technologies for identifying biomarkers relevant to the early diagnosis, disease stratification, and therapy response for ovarian cancer patients and glioblastoma cancer patients. These technologies are designed to increase the accuracy and specificity of current diagnostic approaches, at reduced cost.

Project 2: Novel Nanotechnologies and Molecular Imaging Approaches for Cancer Immunotherapy

Project Investigators: Caius Radu, M.D, and James Heath, Ph.D.
This work bridges nanotechnologies, immunotherapy, and molecular imaging to address significant roadblocks that limit the utility of cell-based immune interventions in cancer. Technologies developed under the first CalTech CCNE have already advanced to the clinic for monitoring cell-based immunotherapies for melanoma. In this Project, investigators expand on these technologies to extend their use to ovarian cancer. The scientific work may lead to improved cancer therapies, significantly impacting public health.

Project 3: Molecular Imaging of Metabolic Switches in Malignant Transformations

Project Investigators: Michael Phelps, Ph.D., and Heather Christofk, Ph.D.
This Project seeks to better define the role of metabolic switches in tumor genesis and in the evasion of the immune system by cancer in the early stages of malignancy. From this work, new early detection molecular imaging diagnostics with PET for patients will emerge, and the potential use of these metabolic switches in therapy will be evaluated. The technology program will provide a low-cost means for biologists, physicians, and pharmaceutical scientists to drive PET probe discovery and use.

Project 4: Nanotechnologies for Assessing Molecular Heterogeneity and Therapeutic Resistance in GBM Patients

Project Investigators: Paul Mischel, Ph.D., James Heath, Ph.D., and Leroy Hood, M.D., Ph.D.
This Project develops powerful new in vitro diagnostic platforms for quantitative molecular analysis of small heterogeneous tumor samples coming directly from the operating room. T The biological samples obtained and tested from GBM patients make these platforms clinically relevant and adds significant value for commercialization. The tools and knowledge developed in this project will be broadly applicable to guiding more effective therapy for patients with cancer.

Project 5: RNA-Interference-Based Nanotherapeutics

Project Investigators: Mark Davis, Ph.D., Antoni Ribas, M.D., and Johannes Czernin, M.D.
This Project uses the approach of integrating multi-time point blood miRNA profiling to provide pharmacodynamic monitoring matched with the specific deliverable gene knockdown, which can be applied to any gene target in any cancer type. A secondary hypothesis implied here is that the short-time-dependent response of the profiled biomarkers can provide significant new and specific information related to therapeutic efficacy.