Tiny Drones to Target Cancer
2015 BRIght Futures Prize
Smart RT biomaterial

Tiny Drones to Target Cancer (TiDTaC)

In 2015 the prestigious BWH BRIght Futures was awarded for the TiDTaC technology, designed to leverage nanotechnology/smart radiotherapy biomaterials for targeting cancer with superior therapeutic efficacy and minimal or no collateral damage (toxicities).

1. TIDTaC with immunotherapy:
Immunotherapy is currently one of the most promising areas of cancer treatment, with many ongoing clinical trials testing different immunotherapy drugs and combinations. Two major challenges limiting the number of patients who respond to treatment and so can benefit from immunotherapy drugs or combinations are immunosuppression and toxicity. New strategies and approaches are needed to overcome these challenges. The central innovation and overall goal of this work is the development of a new approach to use TiDTaC to significantly enhance treatment response rates with immunotherapy including when combining radiotherapy with immunotherapy. Such an approach can help overcome immunosuppression, hence enhancing treatment response, while also minimizing normal tissue/systemic toxicities.  

2. TiDTaC with cannabinoids:
The focus of this work is on simultaneously targeting cancer and cancer pain using  cannabinoids like CBD. At least 116 million U.S. adults suffer from pain, including over half of all cancer patients who experience severe, uncontrollable pain during the course of their disease. The management of pain is a primary challenge for the cancer patient and the treating oncologist. Opioids have been increasingly used to treat chronic pain, which has caused a concomitant rise in prescription opioid abuse and fatalities e.g. 42,249 drug fatalities in 2016 alone. Because of this, alternative treatment options are desperately needed, and more and more patients and doctors are looking to alternatives like cannabinoids for managing pain. Meanwhile, many in vitro and in vivo studies have reported on the anti-tumorigenic effects of cannabinoids, including effects in inducing apoptosis and inhibiting tumor cell growth and metastasis. Despite these growing evidence with promising in-vitro and in-vivo studies, clinical translation of cannabinoids is severely limited by unwanted psychoactive side effects and limited demonstration of therapeutic efficacy. The overall goal of this project is to develop a new approach for simultaneously targeting cancer and pain with superior therapeutic efficacy (enhanced treatment response) and safety (reduced or no toxicities) using cannabinoids delivered from TiDTaC (Smart biomaterials and nanoparticle drones). The approach employs smart drug delivery technology suite to sustainably deliver potent amounts of cannabinoids in the tumor microenvironment to inhibit tumor progression while also targeting type 1 cannabinoid (CB1-type) receptors expressed on the peripheral terminals of nociceptors in the tumor for cannabinoid-induced analgesia. 

3. TiDTAC with global health impact:
The BRIght futures prize for TiDTaC involved votes from all 50 states of the USA but also over 95 countries around the world including poor-resource countries. Successful clinical translation of TiDTaC would significantly benefit all with focus on ensuring access for all. Most patients in poor-resource settings present with metastasis, so this technology could have a high impact there.   Over 90% of cancer patients present with metastatic disease and could benefit significantly from TiDTaC with immunotherapy. Also most cancer patients in resource-poor settings die painful and distressful deaths due to cancer and could benefit from TiDTaC with CBD. Furthermore, the outcomes of this research can also avail SMARTER treatment for populations beyond cancer patients. For example, virtually all football players have to deal with chronic pain, and NFL superstars like Calvin Johnson, Rob Gronkowski and Andrew Luck recently have had to end their careers because of such pain. There is great opportunity to collaborate in research on this for global health impact working with such stars with synergistic impact on the work on cancer, where 1 out of every 8 players have to deal with cancer in their lifetime.

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