A Boise State University researcher has received nearly a quarter of a million dollars to support research into nanotechnology and research as it applies to cancer.
“New improvements in cancer treatments are urgently needed, and nanotechnology, which is the integration of nanomaterials science and biology, offers promising new opportunities,” said Denise Wingett, an associate professor of biological sciences at BSU.
The program has received a $211,500 grant from the National Institutes of Health for research on novel anti-cancer agents.
The project uses preferential cytotoxic actions of metal oxide nanoparticles against cancer and it aims to address one of the greatest challenges facing the chemotherapy treatment method.
The chemical cocktail used to kill cancer cells must be given in limited doses because of its toxicity to healthy cells, but Wingett said nanotechnology could change the methods of administration and use.
She said, “It is the very small size of nanoparticles, comparable to naturally occurring biomolecules, that makes them particularly attractive for novel biomedical uses because they frequently display new physical, chemical and biological properties that can be used to manipulate cell responses.”
While nanoparticles already are being investigated for use in cancer applications, Wingett’s project is unique in its examination and utilization of the inherent toxicity of the nanoparticles themselves.
“Our proof-of-concept experiments have recently demonstrated that carefully engineered nanoparticles can preferentially kill cancerous T cells,” she said. “The ability to kill cancerous cells while leaving normal body cells intact and immunity uncompromised is an attractive approach.”
The primary objective of Wingett’s research is to gain a better understanding of the mechanisms by which metal oxide nanoparticles kill cancer cells so their toxicity and selectivity may be further improved to boost their therapeutic potential. As her work continues, the results could be game changing when it comes to developing new tools to fight cancer.