Research into nanoparticle delivery of cancer drugs receives CPRIT funding

A drug-delivery system that targets and destroys ovarian cancer cells is one step closer to improving the outcome for women diagnosed with the often deadly disease.

A $742,000 Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) grant will be used to strengthen research on the use of "good cholesterol" nanoparticles that can selectively shrink or destroy ovarian cancer tumors. The funding is the first commercial CPRIT grant that UNT Health Science Center has received.

The grant, which is being shared with the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, will help expedite the goal of launching human clinical trials involving the use of nanoparticles to fight ovarian cancer, said Andres Lacko, PhD, Professor of Integrative Physiology & Anatomy and Pediatrics.

Dr. Lacko and Anil Sood, MD, of M.D. Anderson have been working together to develop better ways to destroy malignant tumors. They jointly developed the approach using nanoparticles for cancer therapeutics, which builds on Dr. Lacko’s original research utilizing synthetic high-density lipoprotein’s (HDL) potential for cancer-drug delivery.

"Ovarian cancer is such a tough disease to treat," Dr. Lacko said. "We are hopeful this will prove to be a highly effective way to treat this disease in combination with other therapies."

For 14 years, Dr. Lacko has studied drug-carrying synthetic "good" cholesterol nanoparticles called "rHDL," which can function like a Trojan horse. Cancer cells consume large amounts of cholesterol, so they can be fooled when anti-cancer drugs are placed inside the rHDL particles.

The unique drug-delivery method makes it possible to bypass most normal cells, which don’t need as much cholesterol, and go straight to the cancer cells, thus sparing patients from experiencing the harmful effects of chemotherapy.

The research also is being applied to potentially treat breast, prostate and other cancers.

Research on another phase of the nanoparticle development, based on the same principles, recently led to a license agreement with a Silicon Valley company that could lead to the manufacture of the nanoparticles for human trials, Dr. Lacko said.

"We hope to attract investors and, in the long run, move toward manufacturing this formulation," Dr. Lacko said. "UNTHSC is half owner of the patents involving the rHDL nanoparticles and will benefit greatly if this approach is a clinical/commercial success."

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