Leicester University wins £320,000 grant to study magnetic nanoparticles for treatment of prostate cancer

24 April 2009

Magnetic nanoparticle technology developed at the University of Leicester will be used to develop a powerful new technique for the early diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer.

Dr Wu Su, of the Department of Chemistry, has been awarded a grant worth £321,000 by the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). This is one of only ten Postdoctoral Research Fellowships in the Life Sciences Interface area given by the Council this year and is the first EPSRC postdoctoral research fellowship awarded to the University of Leicester.

The award will allow a multidisciplinary research team to design high-performance magnetic nanoparticles. The team consists of researchers from the University of Leicester departments of Chemistry, Physics, Cancer Studies and Molecular Medicine and Cardiovascular Sciences.

High-performance magnetic nanoparticles act as probes that show up in magnetic resonance imaging and kill tumour cells by hyperthermia at a much earlier stage than conventional methods.

The pioneering technology, developed at the University of Leicester, is focused on the development of a new type of magnetic nanoparticle in which the magnetic performance is increase by a factor of ten.

Targeting these magnetic nanoparticles to unique cell surface receptors present on the prostate tumour cell surface will enable efficient and specific delivery to prostate cancer cells. The approach is general and it is envisaged that these systems could be applied to other types of aggressive cancers (such as liver, breast, colon) in which early diagnosis and treatment is essential for recovery.

Dr Su said this technology requires a multidisciplinary approach: “Prostate cancer cure rates are predicated on early diagnosis and treatment. The technology that we are developing offers the potential of both the identification and treatment of prostate cancer in a highly selective manner.”

Successful implementation of this technology would provide significant welfare benefits for patients — reducing the need for surgical removal of the prostate — and significant cost benefits for healthcare organisations.

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