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Grand Challenge Initiative to create center for cancer research

Published September 30, 2016

A new project will combine the talents of NDSU researchers from several fields to help cure cancer. 

The Center for Engineered Cancer Test Beds will link several of NDSU’s top minds in an effort to significantly reduce testing time and costs to develop new cancer drugs and drug delivery systems. The project will focus on prostate and breast cancer, which have a high rate of spreading to bones. 

The center is part of the university’s Grand Challenge Initiative, which is designed to use NDSU’s role as North Dakota’s land-grant, research university to create innovative research that will improve the lives of people in the state and around the world. 

“Zeroing on the appropriate anti-cancer drugs and drug combinations for a patient is challenging for both the physician and the patient, and it requires iterative practices,” said Kalpana Katti, University Distinguished Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the center’s lead. “This project will attempt to significantly accelerate patient-specific treatments.”

The project is a spinoff of NDSU research that already has received national recognition. Katti previously led a group of researchers who pioneered a way to regenerate bone that closely resembles human bone using the type of clay found in Fargo’s Red River Valley. 

The NDSU Grand Challenge Initiative was developed to solve complex and evolving global issues with collaborative, interdisciplinary research. Kalpana Katti, NDSU Distinguished Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, leads a group of NDSU’s top researchers in an effort to find a cure for prostate and breast cancer with the start of the Center for Engineered Cancer Test Beds. 

The project includes some of NDSU’s top researchers. Scientists from the College of Engineering, College of Health Professions, College of Science and Math, College of Business and the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences will develop ways to build the test beds, manufacture drug delivery systems, market the final product and gauge reactions of patients and the medical community. 

The center uses Katti’s innovation in nanomaterials to grow human bone, combined with cancer cell seeding to generate cancer tumors. The tumors will mimic human tumors that have reached the metastasis stage. NDSU researchers will use the tumors to test new anti-cancer drugs and drug delivery systems. The project also will closely study the biology of cancer and its growth onto bone. 

The time it takes to test and bring new cancer drugs to market could be significantly decreased due to the centers’ ability to conduct several trials at a time on the test-beds. According to the American Cancer Society, new cancer drugs are studied for an average of six years before they enter clinical trials. It takes another eight years for a drug to go through clinical trials and get approved. 

Trials are currently done in a petri dish or with the use of animals, which slows progress because neither method resembles human biology as closely as NDSU’s cancer test beds.   

“We are not mice and we are not petri dishes,” Katti said. “The number of people who can benefit from the cancer test-beds will be tremendous.” 

One benefit could be targeted medical care using a patient’s stem cells to create cancer tumors on test-beds. This would enable researchers to find the most effective medications for that patient’s cancer without causing pain for the patient.

The center could help lighten the heavy economic burden for patients dealing with the disease. The National Institutes of Health estimates the annual cost of cancer could reach more than $200 billion by 2020. 

Participants in the project are:  

  • Katti 
  • AKM Khoda, assistant professor of industrial and manufacturing engineering 
  • Dinesh Katti, Jordan A. Engberg Presidential professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering 
  • Sanku Mallik, professor of pharmaceutical sciences 
  • DK Srivastava, professor of chemistry and biochemistry 
  • Mukund Sibi, professor of chemistry and biochemistry 
  • Gregory Cook, professor of chemistry and biochemistry 
  • Rajani Pillai, professor of management and marketing 
  • Nan Yu, associate professor of communication 

Katti said she plans to add several graduate students, additional faculty and undergraduate students when the center opens.

She expects innovative scientific discovery will help the center grow and become nationally competitive. 

“We hope to initially find our niche with unique, creative ideas and with synergy,” Katti said. “Scientific discovery will be paramount for us. We’ll always need to be at the cutting edge of discovery. That’s where all of the big national centers started. And that’s where we will start.

Student Focused. Land Grant. Research University.

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Last Updated: Friday, September 30, 2016 2:02:13 PM
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