Targeting Pancreatic Cancer with Nanotechnology

Carcinoma of the pancreas is particularly deadly; usually detected in an advanced stages and highly resistant to known standard cancer therapies. Current treatment is limited to surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. All three methods risk damage to normal tissues, limiting the ability to eradicate the tumour even when an agent is active. One major challenge lies in the inability to selectively target high doses of chemotherapeutic drugs to the pancreatic tumour, producing a therapeutic effect while sparing normal tissues.


Our research focuses on a field that brings together the physical sciences (engineering, material sciences, mathematics) with biology in a way that may overcome several of the current barriers to pancreatic cancer detection and treatment. We are developing nanodevices for the targeted high dose delivery of chemotherapeutics (or other novel biologics), which would have high clinical utility in treating all stages of pancreatic cancer. These nanodevices will selectively deliver chemotherapeutic drugs into tumours, by taking advantage of the leaky angiogenic microvasculature of the solid tumours as well as, by means of a novel peptide targeting agent that strongly binds to pancreatic cancers directly.

Our preliminary studies have shown that these devices are safe, and have the ability to carry and deliver, high activity chemotherapeutics against pancreatic cancer cells. The particular agents selected have high utility already against pancreatic cancer and act as radiosensizers, permitting easy translation to the clinic. In this proposal we will also make these nanodevices imageable in vivo, permitting the real-time quantitative viewing of these nanodevices and where they go in a live mouse. It will specifically examine the ability of these nanodevices to target pancreatic tumours by carrying out novel imaging and quantitative biodistribution studies in pancreatic tumour bearing mice. These key studies are geared towards establishing pre-clinical evidence that will expedite therapeutic development of these nanodevices for the real-time imaging and treatment of pancreatic cancer patients.


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