“Advance and translate a suite of ultrasmall silica organic hybrid nanoparticles with tunable size, brightness, and geometry whose favorable physicochemical, imaging, and biological properties may impact the way we diagnose & treat a variety of tumors.”
The morbidity and mortality resulting from cancer on a global level is a somber reminder of the significant challenges that remain to be addressed, despite years of research and development. While significant progress has been achieved in recent years regarding the understanding of tumor biology and its complexities, progress with respect to improved patient outcomes and treatment technologies has been limited. Specifically, metastatic melanoma, one of the fastest rising cancers in the United States, and malignant brain tumors; both have a very poor prognosis given detection typically occurs at a later stage of tumor development. Unfortunately, very few treatment options exist for such tumor types.
Diagnostic and therapeutic tools that can enable earlier and more precise detection are critically needed to improve patient outcomes. Such tools can enable the operating surgeon to directly visualize tumor margins and metastatic disease spread to lymph nodes, while identifying adjacent vital structures.
The majority of cancer therapeutics are small molecules, which are often hydrophobic moieties, characterized by poor water solubility, non-specific biodistribution, and off-target toxicities. As a result, these agents demonstrate problematic dose-limiting toxicities, narrow therapeutic index, and provide limited clinical benefit. Nanotechnologies in oncology provide an alternative in that they add new functionalities to create a more potent, tumor-directed imaging and/or therapeutic platform.
While the use of molecularly targeted nanoparticles can improve diagnostic accuracy and triage patients to appropriate treatment arms, their development and application has been slow to advance to the clinical trial stage. Resolving such barriers promises to further individualize cancer care and offer more options for patients. The expertise required to develop such particles and technology extends well beyond what is typically available at a single institution and calls for a transdisciplinary and multi-investigator effort.
We have focused the MSKCC-Cornell Center for Translation of Cancer Nanomedicines (MC2TCN) to advance, translate, and disseminate a suite of ultrasmall silicaorganic hybrid nanoparticles along with the development and implementation of intraoperative optical detection tools to improve cancer localization, staging, and treatment. We believe that the results of this research program will have a significant impact on realizing a new paradigm of effective, individualized cancer care.