The sudden explosion in the last decade of understanding highly technical medical research and practice at a molecular scale, about one-millionth of a millimeter, is already changing the health care landscape.
And while nanotechnology has possible applications in nearly every aspect of our lives, its use in medical research, called nanomedicine, will radically change the way we diagnose, treat and prevent cancer. Researchers at UAMS are on the leading edge of several collaborative nanomedicine projects and programs that are gaining nationwide attention in cancer detection and treatment arenas.
“There is a lot of research in nanomedicine going on all over the world, and everyone agrees that its potential is the future of health care,” said Vladimir Zharov, Ph.D., a world-renowned senior scientist in the UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, director of the Arkansas Nanomedicine Center, and professor in the Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery in the UAMS College of Medicine.
Seek and Destroy
Zharov’s research is beginning to come full circle now that his project to detect and destroy cancer cells recently translated into clinical trial.
Developed during six years with nearly $5 million from the National Cancer Institute, the U.S. Department of Defense and the National Science Foundation, Zharov says he has a magnetic device that is placed on a patient’s skin that attracts and captures deadly metastasis cells.
Cancer patients are first injected with a cocktail of magnetic, gold carbon nanotubes that have a special biological coating to target moving cancer cells in their bloodstream. A device, similar to a cuff, is placed on the patient’s skin that reins in the deadly cells before they are either removed for further genetic analysis or killed directly in the blood vessels with a noninvasive laser.
The process opens a new possibility in the fight to eradicate cancer with a treatment beyond surgery, radiation or chemotherapy. The discovery, fueled by Zharov’s cancer-catching device called the iV3, recently became UAMS’ first-ever nanomedicine-related clinical trial.
Another recent collaboration between Zharov and Robert Griffin, Ph.D., professor and director of radiation oncology at UAMS, involved developing a new concept of nanodrug using laser-activated physical and biological effects in gold nanoparticle drug conjugates that opens new avenues in the development of promising cancer treatment.
In 2012 UAMS created the Arkansas Nanomedicine Center in the College of Medicine to serve as the hub of all nanomedicine efforts on campus and through a network of statewide collaborators: UAMS’ College of Medicine, Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute and the Translational Research Institute, the Arkansas Children’s Hospital Research Institute, the Institute of Nanoscience and Engineering at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, the Center for Integrative Nanotechnology Sciences at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, and the National Center for Toxicological Research.
“Nanotechnology has the potential to affect all aspects of our lives from energy to materials to health care,” said Alexandru Biris, director and chief scientist of the UALR Center for Integrative Nanotechnology Sciences.
Recent collaborative research between Zharov and Biris has already led to new discoveries published in several leading nanotechnology journals.
Zharov said the statewide collaboration recently helped execute a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to establish the Arkansas Research Consortium in Nanotoxicity.