Graduate prize winner Geoffrey von Maltzahn, 29, turns what may be a new page in nanomedicine with his method of using a pair of nanoparticles that work together in an innovative way to increase the effectiveness and lower the side effects of existing cancer drugs. Powerful cancer-killing drugs are well-known to science and widely used in clinical medicine, but since these drugs are also highly toxic to healthy cells, targeting drugs specifically to tumors has been a major focus in cancer research. Of late, much of this drug-targeting research has looked at using nanoparticles to carry the drugs to tumors. A major challenge, however, is that cancer cells, and the tumors they may form, have a finite numbers of targets to which nanoparticles can attach -- and since a given nanoparticle can carry only a small drug payload, this limits the amount of drug that can be delivered.
In von Maltzahn's approach, one set of nanoparticles lodge in a tumor's blood vessels and cause local bleeding. The bleeding prompts clotting factors to be produced, which in turn, attracts a second set of nanoparticles that have been programmed to be attracted to the clotting factors and that deliver a cancer drug. The use of the clotting factors dramatically increases the number of targets for the drug-carrying particles. Raised first in Arlington, Texas and then Fairfax, Virginia, von Maltzahn received degrees from MIT and the University of California, San Diego before beginning his current w
|SOURCE National Inventors Hall of Fame|
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