US, Israeli researchers applying nanotechnology to cancer

Each team was awarded $600,000 for two years.

Cancer cells (photo credit: REUTERS)
Cancer cells
(photo credit: REUTERS)
American and Israeli research teams are preparing to explore treatments for cancer using science and engineering at the molecular level, commonly known as nanotechnology.
Researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Center for Transformative Nanomedicine of Cleveland Clinic in Ohio have been awarded $1.2 million for collaboration at the two institutions, it was announced on Thursday. The scientists and physicians from Cleveland and Jerusalem will try to determine whether tiny nanoparticles can more effectively deliver treatments to brain and breast cancer and lead toward possible cures.
The family of Victor Cohn, a Cleveland real estate developer, gave the collaboration a $2m. donation to kick off a five-year fund-raising effort that seeks a minimum of $15m. The debut grants coincide with the center’s oneyear anniversary.
Each team was awarded $600,000 for two years. Team members will also tap the resources of their respective institutions in Jerusalem and Cleveland. The grants are the first awards of the virtual center, which combines the expertise of the department of biomedical engineering at Cleveland Clinic’s Lerner Research Institute and Hebrew U., which is one of the world’s foremost centers in nanotechnology. Cleveland Clinic is ranked the No.
2 hospital in America by US News & World Report.
One team will focus on the microbiome – the ecological community of microorganisms that share our body space – as scientists suspect there is a connection between gut bacteria imbalances and breast cancer. Researchers will try to determine whether they can stunt tumors and avoid the harmful side effects of traditional cancer treatments by using nanotechnology to deliver antibiotics directly to the bacterial community in breast cancer.
This team includes Hebrew University’s Dr. Arieh Moussaieff and Prof. Yechezkel Barenholz and Cleveland Clinic’s Dr. Stephen Grobmyer and Dr. Charis Eng.
A second team will seek to harness nanotechnology and stem cell therapies to treat glioblastoma, the most common and aggressive form of brain cancer. Researchers plan to use microchips to deliver treatments to lab-generated tumors, testing whether the procedure is safe and effective for people. If successful, such approaches could lead to new ways of addressing Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. This team will be led by Dr. Jeremy Rich of Cleveland Clinic and Dr. Yaakov Nahmias of the Hebrew University.
Dr. D. Geoffrey Vince, chairman of biomedical engineering at the Lerner Research Institute, said both projects hold out the promise of finding more effective and inexpensive means of diagnosing and treating cancer and other complex diseases. He credits the collaboration with leveraging the assets of two worldclass science hubs to create better medicine.
“It’s hard to find two groups further apart geographically, but the collaboration is working extremely well,” said Vince, noting that the researchers communicate frequently by email and video conferencing and plan to meet in Cleveland this spring.
“It gives us a chance to address very important clinical questions using technology and approaches a world away. It’s a true symbiotic relationship. We can help them and they can help us.”
Vince leads the center’s scientific efforts in Cleveland.
His counterpart in Israel is Prof. Simon Benita, the former head of the Hebrew University’s School of Pharmacy.
“We have embarked on a very fruitful scientific collaboration between two great institutions with complementary skills, bridging the gap from the bench to bedside for the benefit of patients suffering from severe diseases, particularly cancer, vascular and neurological disorders,” Benita said.
“Our Cleveland Clinic and Hebrew University scientists, who have met several times over the last two years, are excited by and enthusiastic about the potential to resolve challenging medical issues, and help patients, by combining their synergic skills,” he said.
Cohn called the venture “a great opportunity to foster a collaboration with a leading hospital in the United States and the top Israeli university that has an international reputation for drug development.”