NCI announces major commitment to nanotechnology for cancer research

September 13, 2004

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) announced today at a media briefing a new $144.3 million, five-year initiative to develop and apply nanotechnology to cancer. Nanotechnology, the development and engineering of devices so small that they are measured on a molecular scale, has already demonstrated promising results in cancer research and treatment.

"Nanotechnology has the potential to radically increase our options for prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer," said Andrew von Eschenbach, M.D., director of the National Cancer Institute. "NCI's commitment to this cancer initiative comes at a critical time. Nanotechnology supports and expands the scientific advances in genomics and proteomics and builds on our understanding of the molecular underpinnings of cancer. These are the pillars which will support progress in cancer."

To carry out this initiative, the NCI, part of the National Institutes of Health, is forming the NCI Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer, a comprehensive, integrated initiative encompassing researchers, clinicians, and public and private organizations that have joined forces to develop and translate cancer-related nanotechnology research into clinical practice.

"The Alliance lays out a process to safely accelerate the application of nanotechnology to cancer research," said NCI Deputy Director Anna Barker, Ph.D. "Central to this initiative will be multidisciplinary partnerships involving physicists, biologists, clinicians, engineers, and other experts that can translate knowledge on cancer and nanotechnology into clinically useful products."

The new NCI Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer is one of the first steps in implementing the Cancer Nanotechnology Plan, which was developed over the past 18 months with the input of a broad cross-section of the cancer research and clinical oncology communities. The NCI Alliance consists of four major program activities: The NCI recently signed a memorandum of understanding and an interagency agreement with the National Institute of Standards and Technology to partner with the NCI in this characterization and standardization effort. The NCI will also be working to expand collaborations with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to help define the critical pathway for nanotechnologies to reach the clinic.

Among the key components of the Cancer Nanotechnology Plan are milestones to measure success over two time periods. Within the first three years, the plan calls for acceleration of projects that hold promise for near-term clinical application. After three years, the Alliance will focus on developing solutions to address more difficult technological and biological problems that have the potential to impact detection and treatment.

"We are already seeing how nanotechnology is transforming our ability to translate research advances into clinical advances," said Samuel Wickline, M.D., Professor of Medicine, Physics and Biomedical Engineering at Washington University, St. Louis, Mo., and NCI grantee for nanotechnology research. "The possibilities are enormous for finding very small cancers far earlier than ever before and treating them with powerful drugs at the tumor site alone, while at the same time reducing any harmful side effects. This initiative will allow us to explore using this technology to its full potential."

Recent advances in cancer treatment involving nanotechnology include: Other clinical applications of nanotechnology have focused on identifying cancer in its earliest stages, visualizing development of the disease, delivering improved therapy to increase the effectiveness and reduce side effects of drugs, and capturing early signals of drug efficacy.
-end-
For additional information about the NCI Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer, please go to: http://nano.cancer.gov.

To view an archived copy of the video Web cast of the NCI press briefing on the Nanotechnology Cancer Alliance, please go to: http://videocast.nih.gov/PastEvents.asp.

For more information about cancer, please visit the NCI Web site at http://www.cancer.gov or call NCI's Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237).

NIH/National Cancer Institute

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