Science + Technology

UCLA to Use Nanotechnology to Study Cancer With $1.5 Million Grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation


UCLA researchers have received a $1.5 million grant from theW.M. Keck Foundation for a new interdisciplinary program that will usenanotechnology to understand the origins of the majority of solid tumorcancers.

"The W.M. Keck Epithelial Cell Cancer Biology Program willhelp UCLA scientists better understand the complex nature of tumors that sharean epithelial cell origin such as breast, prostate, lung, bladder andpancreatic cancer, and facilitate the development of new ways to treat them,"said Leonard Rome, principal investigator for the program, director of UCLA'sJonsson Cancer Center's Cancer Cell Biology Program Area and senior associatedean for research at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

Epithelial cells are cells that form the body's coveringsand linings, including cells on the surface of the skin and mucous membranes.Epithelial cells play a central role in the function of tissues such as lung,kidney, pancreas, liver, breast, cervix and prostate. These cells give rise toepithelial cancers, the major category of solid tumor cancers that includesbreast, prostate, lung, bladder and pancreatic cancer.

Nanotechnology helps scientists study the building blocks ofcancer at atomic, molecular or macromolecular levels. The project brings together three new technologies, — shape-encodedparticles, quantum dot molecular imaging and chemical genomics — that will help identify novel genes andproteins, visualize individual molecules, and help to develop new drugs.

"Each of these approaches is a very important technology.However, used together, they bring a whole new dimension to the arsenal ofweapons we have to understand how cancer begins," Rome said.

The new project will buildupon the strengths of the W.M. Keck Proteomics Center and will enhancescientific collaborations among researchers from the Jonsson ComprehensiveCancer Center, the California NanoSystems Institute, the UCLA College, and theHenry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Together, UCLAscientists will study cancer cell function at the molecular level, focusing onthe development of novel targeted therapies.

Today, only half of all patientsdiagnosed with cancer can be cured. UCLA leads the nation in developingtargeted therapies against tumors that do not respond to conventionaltreatment.

Joining program director Rome as co-directors will be OwenWitte, John Colicelli and Stanley Nelson of the Jonsson Comprehensive CancerCenter; Enrique Rozengurt of the Geffen School of Medicine; and Shimon Weiss ofthe UCLA College.

The Los Angeles-based W.M.Keck Foundation is one of the nation's largest philanthropic organizations. Itwas established in 1954 by the late William Myron Keck, founder of the SuperiorOil Company. The foundation's grant-making focuses primarily on the areas ofmedical research, science and engineering.

UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center is composed of more than 240cancer researchers and clinicians engaged in cancer research, prevention,detection, control and education. The center, one of the nation's largestcomprehensive cancer centers, is dedicated to promoting cancer research andapplying the results to clinical situations. In 2003 the center was named thebest cancer center in the Western United States by U.S. News & World Report,a ranking it has held for four consecutive years.

For moreinformation about UCLA's Jonsson Cancer Center, visit the center's Web site at



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