Grand Challenge Initiative to create center for cancer research

Dr. Sanku Mallik, professor of pharmaceutical sciences in the College of Health Professions, is part of an interdisciplinary team working to contribute knowledge in the fight against cancer.

The Center for Engineered Cancer Test Beds links researchers from several departments at NDSU 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, 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. 

Kalpana Katti, University Distinguished Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, serves as the center’s lead. “This project will attempt to significantly accelerate patient-specific treatments.”

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. 

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. 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. 

One benefit of the research 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.

Participants in the project are:  

  • Kalpana Katti, university distinguished professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering 
  • 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 


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