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Koch grant puts nanotechnology on front line of prostate cancer battle

A $5 million grant from David H. Koch (S.B. 1962, S.M. 1963) will help researchers from several institutions, including MIT, develop nanotechnology to treat metastatic prostate cancer, for which there is no effective treatment.

The team of researchers from MIT, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Weill Medical College of Cornell University is investigating how to use tiny nanoparticles to deliver chemotherapy to cancer cells without invading and destroying healthy cells.

The research team was created by the Prostate Cancer Foundation, and the gift from Koch, a prostate cancer survivor, was announced at the foundation's annual scientific retreat.

Nanotechnology is the field of research that involves materials that are extremely small--the size of atoms or molecules. It holds promise for the detection, diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

"We are exploring if tiny nanoparticles can act as 'Trojan Horses' in the body, delivering medication directly to the cancer cells while bypassing healthy cells," explained MIT Institute Professor Robert Langer, who announced the gift at the Prostate Cancer Foundation retreat and will be one of the leading researchers of the team. "This will permit the administration of drugs that might otherwise be too toxic or dissolve too quickly in the bloodstream."

Other leading researchers of the team are Omid Farokhzad of Brigham and Women's, Philip Kantoff of Dana-Farber and Neil Bander of Weill Medical College.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on October 17, 2007 (download PDF).

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