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Nanomedicine research for prostate cancer supported by $5 million gift

NEW YORK (Jan. 29, 2008) -- The Prostate Cancer Foundation, largely through the generosity of David H. Koch, has given $5 million to four institutions, including Weill Cornell Medical College, to support novel research in prostate cancer. The gift is one of the largest-ever individual donations for prostate cancer research.

The multidisciplinary research team, created by the Prostate Cancer Foundation, will seek to develop a novel nanomedicine for prostate cancer that can be given intravenously and delivered directly to targeted sites of prostate cancer. Nanomedicine is the application of nanotechnology -- engineering compounds or machines on a molecular or atomic scale -- to the prevention and treatment of disease.

At Weill Cornell, the research effort will be led by Dr. Neil Bander, a physician-researcher who heads one of the world's most experienced and accomplished teams in antibody-targeted therapy in urological cancers.

"We are very grateful to Michael Milken and Dr. Jonathan Simons of the Prostate Cancer Foundation and David Koch for their foresight and generosity in supporting a multi-institutional collaboration that brings together leaders in their respective fields with the goal of creating a synergy that will lead to significant benefit for cancer patients. I think we all agree that this is the model required to create complex solutions to solve complex problems," says Dr. Bander, director of urological oncology research and the Bernard and Josephine Chaus Professor of Urological Oncology at Weill Cornell Medical College and a urologist at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical College.

Several years ago, Dr. Bander's team developed the first antibodies to the external domain of prostate-specific membrane antigen (PSMA). PSMA is now widely considered the best prostate cancer cell surface target known. The lead antibody, J591, has been a focus of clinical trials at Weill Cornell, involving the Departments of Urology, Medicine (hematology-oncology) and Radiology (nuclear medicine), as well as at several other institutions. These trials have entered almost 300 patients and have demonstrated sensitive and specific cancer targeting in 97 percent of prostate cancer patients as well as anti-tumor activity.

Dr. Bander is the inventor on patents that are owned by Cornell Research Foundation ("CRF") for the antibody technology described in this release. He is a paid consultant to and owns stock in BZL Biologics, the company to which the patents were licensed by CRF for further research and development.

PSMA has been an attractive target for cancer drug development not only because it is present in high amounts in prostate cancers, but it also is the only known molecular target present on tumor blood vessels that is not present on normal blood vessels. The ability to target PSMA on blood vessels provides a way to directly attack a tumor's blood supply without affecting normal blood vessels.

"Nanotechnology has the potential to cure men with advanced prostate cancer without exposing them to severe side effects," says Mr. Koch, who is a survivor of the disease, along with his three brothers. "The scientific team assembled for this work is the best in the business, and if it is possible for any group to be successful in the development of this therapy, it will be this one."

A unique aspect of the collaboration is that all institutions have agreed to share their intellectual property in order to avoid bottlenecks and barriers to patentability that could potentially impede any advancements.

"I very much look forward to working closely with the nation's leading investigators in the field of nanomedicine to create targeted nanoparticles that can deliver drugs to tumor sites," says Dr. Bander.

The four principal investigators, each leaders in their respective fields, were selected by the Prostate Cancer Foundation and David H. Koch to create the teamwork and cross-disciplinary synergies necessary to accomplish the initiative's goals.

In addition to Dr. Bander, the all-star multidisciplinary team includes Dr. Omid Farokhzad, an expert in nanotechnology therapeutic development at the Harvard Medical School at the Brigham and Women's Hospital and the MIT-Harvard Center for Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence; Dr. Philip Kantoff, a leader in clinical research for prostate cancer at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School; and Robert Langer, ScD, an authority in chemical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dr. Langer, a Cornell alumnus, was recently awarded a National Medal of Science at the White House.


Contact: Andrew Klein
New York- Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center/Weill Cornell Medical College

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