A 2017 AAPS Foundation New Investigator Grant recipient shares his research with immuno-nanoparticles.
Yong Zhang, Ph.D., is an assistant professor at the University of Southern California. With the support of the AAPS Foundation, Zhang can continue passionately researching Targeting Metastatic Colorectal Cancer with Novel Immuno-Nanoparticles.
Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the third most common cancer globally. The annual number of new cases of CRC in the United States is estimated to be more than 120,000. Approximately 50,000 people die from CRC every year. Current first-line treatments for CRC include surgery and chemotherapy. Given the developing resistance of CRC cells to current chemotherapeutic agents, novel therapeutic regimens with significantly enhanced potency are required to address unmet medical needs. In contrast to conventional treatments, therapeutic agents that can effectively activate immune system for robustly attacking tumor cells have emerged as increasingly important anticancer therapies, attributable to their remarkable therapeutic efficacy and specificity.
In this work, we proposed to design and develop a series of novel nanomedicines that selectively redirect and activate immune effector cells against CRC cells. Our proposed immunotherapeutic nanoparticles are unique and distinguished from conventional regimens, which prove to be unsafe and ineffective. We combine knowledge and technologies from nanotechnology, cell biology, and protein engineering to generate innovative nanoparticles with power to activate and direct the immune system for the specific killing of tumor cells with enhanced efficacy and safety. We can then further optimize their potency and selectivity by performing systematic preclinical studies using animal models bearing CRC patients’ tumor cells. Successful completion of this research project will lead to the development of an innovative class of nanomedicines for more effective treatment of colon cancer.
The findings from these preclinical studies as proof of concept will provide the basis for clinical trials. Translation of these innovations into practical applications can be particularly beneficial to patients with refractory and relapsed colon cancer and likely patients with other epithelial cancers. We expect these new regimens to provide more efficacious approaches with fewer side effects for CRC therapies and powerful tools for fighting colon cancer with developed drug resistance, which will ultimately contribute to our goal of eliminating CRC.
The support of the AAPS Foundation New Investigator Grant to my career development is several-fold. First, the generous financial support from this grant allows us to carry out the proposed research and reduce the proposal to practice, enabling me to leverage the findings and data to secure more external funding to establish a sustainable research program. Second, this prestigious award recognizes the significance of my original research and exemplifies my capability in performing independent and cutting-edge research, positioning me as a more competitive candidate for many other funding opportunities. Third, this important research prize enhances the visibility of my research program, facilitating the attraction of potential collaborators and supporters. Through building an independent research program that converges approaches across disciplines, I will become an established investigator performing impactful research at the forefront of the pharmaceutical sciences.
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