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Stanford Medicine News Center - October 9th, 2015 - by Krista Conger

The National Cancer Institute has awarded nearly $9.5 million to the Center for Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence in Translational Diagnostics at Stanford.

The five-year grant is the third award from the NCI to fund the center.

The awards are managed by the NCI’s Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer, and are meant to bring together researchers from across different disciplines to use emerging nanotechnology advances to aid in early cancer diagnosis, monitoring and therapeutic intervention. Stanford is one of only four institutions across the country that have received all three rounds of funding.

“In contrast to some situations, in which researchers and clinicians try to figure out clinical applications for newly developed technology, the nanotechnology approaches we’ve developed over the past 10 years were developed with very specific clinical problems in mind,” said Sanjiv Gambhir, MD, PhD, professor and chair of radiology, who directs the center.

“The expectation is that the center will generate nanotechnology that will translate into clinical trials and commercial opportunities,” said Gambhir, who described two such efforts developed by the center in the past decade.

One is a tiny magnetic sensor developed in the lab of Shan Wang, PhD, professor of materials science and engineering and of electrical engineering at Stanford, that is capable of detecting minute changes in magnetic fields that occur when cancer-associated biomarkers are bound by magnetic nanoparticles. This technique could potentially be used to quickly assess the presence of cancer anywhere in the body with just a small sample of blood or another bodily fluid.

Another is a way to use novel nanoparticles that are delivered into the body to detect cancer. “Using special imaging instruments and novel nanoparticles we can hopefully detect very early aggressive tumors,” said Gambhir, who also holds the Virginia and D.K. Ludwig Professorship for Clinical Investigation in Cancer Research.

According to Gambhir, the real strength of the center lies in its ability to bring together researchers from very diverse disciplines. “We’ve been able to leverage Stanford’s many strengths by drawing in collaborators from across the university, including researchers from the schools of Medicine, Engineering, and Humanities and Sciences,” he said. “In particular, we’ve attracted physical scientists and engineers to tackle difficult clinical problems in the field of cancer detection, diagnosis and treatment. Many of these problems could not likely be solved without the use of nanotechnology, and the success of the center brings together faculty from all over campus.”

Originally published at Stanford Medicine News Center