Many of us, either directly or through family and friends, have been affected by cancer. In 1999, my father died of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. He bravely battled cancer for 14 years. I am very lucky because many die within months after their initial diagnosis. Yet, I witnessed the gradual decline of my father's health through brutal rounds of chemotherapy and radiation. We must find a better way to treat cancer and develop alternatives for oncologists and their patients.
Our lab investigates methods of increasing the efficacy of common and experimental drugs by applying the principal of drug delivery to create smarter drugs and carriers. An ideal platform for targeting cancer cells is our LTP nanoparticles. This delivery system is rapidly degrading, thus providing sustained short-term release, and can be endocytosed to release drugs into the cell's cytoplasm. We can decorate the surfaces of our nanoparticles with various targeting moieties, scuh as peptides, antibodies, and other molecular ligands, to increase specificity for certain types of cells (see the Nanotechnology section for the schematic of LTP nanoparticles). In one example of this concept we have demonstrated that the LTLP nanoparticles conjugated with folic acid (part of the vitamin B complex that plays an important role in methylation reactions and DNA/RNA synthesis) can bind with the over-expressed folate receptors in HeLa cells under flowing conditions with high efficiency. The combination of LTP, targeting moieties, and drug are essential for localizing the chemotherapeutics drugs to the site of the cancer even when systemically injected.
In addition, our lab has submitted a patent discourse for drug pendant delivery system that covalently binds hydrophobic drugs. Unfortunately, the NIH is littered with many failed clinical trials of promising drugs simply because they are not soluble in aqueous solutions. Even the water solubility of cisplatin, a widely used chemotherapeutic, is relative poor. Our drug pendant systems not only provide water solubility of hydrophobic drugs but also have a built-in targeting mechanism that can recognize many types of carcinomas thought receptors that are over-expressed by these tissues. In addition, we can conjugate imaging molecules for detecting early-stance cancer cells. We hope these and other technologies can be developed into viable therapies and aid our fight against cancer.
In memory of my father – Chae U Yun (1935-1999). My parent's ream was to send their children to college. For this reason, we immigrated to America.
Lung cancer cells that have been stained for nucleus, actin, and folate receptors.