The Laboratory for Cancer Nanotechnology and Immunology exploits the engineerable nature of nanotechnology to develop clinically relevant imaging and therapeutic nanoparticles. Considering the available nanoparticle designs and their adjustable ability to seek and destroy, nanoparticles can be optimally ‘tweaked’ in terms of biophysical and biochemical interactions for site-specific targeting of very distinct tumor microenvironments.

Multicomponent Nanoparticle Platform

The multicomponent nanoparticle platform develops new classes of nanoparticles including (1) chain-like nanoparticles, termed nanochains and (2) mesoporous silica nanoparticles with an iron oxide core. For example, the nanochains are comprised of constituent nanospheres (e.g., iron oxide, gold, liposome) chemically linked into a linear assembly with high precision. Due to enhanced site-specific targeting and radiofrequency-triggered drug release, the multicomponent nanoparticles facilitate effective delivery of drugs into hard-to-reach tumors, which has the potential to unfold the field and allow significant expansion of therapies to the disease where success is currently very limited.

Representative publications: Peiris et al., PLoS One 2011 | Peiris et al., ACS Nano 6(5) 2012 | Peiris et al., ACS Nano 6(10) 2012 | Peiris et al., J Control Release 2012 | Peiris et al., Pharmaceutical Research 2013 | Peiris et al., Cancer Res 2015 | Karathanasis et al., WIREs Nanomed Nanobiotechnol 2016 Turan et al., Nanoscale 2019

Cancer Immunotherapy

Effective tumor site-specific immunity heavily depends on the robust activation of tumor-specific antigen-presenting cells, since these cells bridge the innate and adaptive arms of the immune system. We design immuno-nanoparticles that exploit the advantages of nanotechnology and carefully considers the unique tumor microenvironment to systemically deliver robust immune-potentiating stimuli. In addition to site-specific delivery, the immuno-nanoparicles facilitate precise targeting of the desired subsets of immune cells and proficient presentation of immune agonists to the appropriate intracellular locations. 

Representative publications: Karathanasis et al., Ann Biomed Eng 2009  Peiris et al., Nanoscale 2018 Covarrubias et al., PLoS ONE 2018 Atukorale et al., Cancer Research 2019 

Site-Specific Targeting and Molecular Imaging

To improve the  spatiotemporal targeting of nanomedicines towards hard-to-treat cancers, we study the design of nanoparticles with respect to the tumor's dynamic microenvironment. Design rules are derived that describe the navigation of nanoparticles through different biological processes, such as intravascular, transvascular and interstitial transport, interactions with cell-surface receptors. Our lab develops nanoparticle imaging agents for anatomical, molecular and phenotypical imaging. Using MRI, CT and nuclear imaging, these nanoparticles facilitate prognostication of the outcome of cancer therapies, non-invasive in vivo interrogation and highly accurate and early diagnosis of disease. 

Representative publications: Karathanasis et al., Radiology 2009 |  Karathanasis et al., PLoS ONE 2009 | Toy et al., Nanotechnology 2011 Peiris et al., ACS Nano 6(10) 2012 | Toy et al., ACS Nano 2013 | Toy et al., Advanced Drug Delivery Reviews 2014 | Toy et al., Nanomedicine 2014 | Doolittle et al., ACS Nano 2015 | Peiris et al., J Pharm Sci 2015 | Atukorale et al., Advanced Drug Delivery Reviews 2016 Peiris et al., Nanoscale 2018