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Dec. 9, 2010 Volume 32, No. 15

MU scientists form new company to develop prostate-cancer treatment


Local patients could be the first to benefit

Two University of Missouri researchers have joined forces with an international pharmaceutical firm to develop a promising treatment for prostate cancer using gold nanoparticles.

Nanomedicine experts Kattesh Katti and Raghuraman Kannan of the School of Medicine and Shasun Pharmaceuticals Ltd. have formed a new company, Nanoparticle Biochem Inc. (NBI), to continue research and testing that could lead to the treatment’s use in humans.

“MU’s proactive support of our research has allowed Dr. Kannan and I to join Shasun in taking this important step toward helping cancer patients,” said Katti, a Curator’s Professor of radiology and physics. “This kind of culture has put MU on the map as a destination for world-class science that attracts international attention and investment.”

Katti and Kannan, assistant professor of radiology and director of the Nanoparticle Production Core Facility, have been studying nanoparticle treatment for late-stage prostate cancer for more than five years. Their research has been funded in part by the National Cancer Institute’s Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer, an initiative to accelerate the use of nanotechnology — the manipulation of matter at the molecular level to create functional systems — in cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

Katti is director of the Nanotechnology Platform Partnership at MU, one of 12 partnerships established by the National Cancer Institute in 2006. The grant united biomedical research efforts across campus, including the MU Research Reactor, one of only a few sites in the world able to produce the radioactive gold nanoparticles created by Katti and Kannan.

The researchers’ studies showed that nanoparticles, when injected into the blood stream of mice, only accumulate in implanted prostate tumors, with minimal or no leakage of radioactivity into other organs. Tumors in the treated animals were 82 percent smaller compared to tumors in animals that received non-radioactive nanoparticles. The treated animals did not lose weight during the three-week treatment period; nor did the researchers find any evidence of radiation damage, a sign that nanoparticles are only toxic to tumors.

Shasun, headquartered in Chennai, India, is one of the world’s leading suppliers of ibuprofen. The company has invested $1.5 million in NBI to help MU hire scientists and conduct more laboratory studies. The new company will be housed in the Life Sciences Business Incubator at Monsanto Place.

Jamal Ibdah, senior associate dean for research, said the joint venture represents the vision behind the MU Institute for Clinical and Translational Science, which was created in 2009 to take medical research from the lab to the bedside. If Katti and Kanna’s therapy is approved for humans, patients at MU’s hospitals and clinics could be among the first to benefit .

“As a clinician and a physician-scientist with a particular interest in cancer, I’m especially excited about how patients can benefit from Dr. Katti and Dr. Kannard’s treatment,” Ibdah said. “Offering patients the most promising new treatments is what makes academic medical centers like ours special.”

Prostate cancer is the second most deadly cancer in men. The American Cancer Society estimates that 217,730 people in the United States are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year, and 32,050 U.S. residents die annually from the disease. One in six U.S. men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime.

“MU brings many strengths to this new partnership, which will allow us to clinically translate the unique nanotechnology developed by Drs. Katti and Kannan,” said Abhaya Kumar, a founding director of Shasun. “Everything we need for developing this product for use in patients is at the University of Missouri.”

Robert Duncan, vice chancellor for research at MU, said the deal with Shasun is “reverse outsourcing” that will help the U.S. economy. “In addition to offering hope to patients, the partnership with Shasun reflects MU’s commitment to supporting high-tech companies that will create jobs and enhance our quality of life in Missouri and beyond,” he said.