The National Cancer Institute (NCI) has awarded Harvard and MIT a five-year, $20 million grant to establish a center geared toward applying nanotechnology to cancer research.
The MIT-Harvard Center of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence (CCNE) will be one of seven centers across the nation, the NCI announced on Oct. 3.
Ralph Weissleder, a professor of radiology at Harvard Medical School (HMS) and director of the Center for Molecular Imaging Research at Massachusetts General Hospital, and Robert Langer, an Institute Professor in MIT’s Department of Chemical Engineering, will head the new center.
“We’re hoping to use new nanotechnology—things that have been developed for cell phones and computers—for medical applications, especially in the use of cancer prevention. In particular, we’d like to use the technology for the earlier detection, more efficient treatment, and more advanced monitoring of cancer or cancer patients,” Weissleder said.
The CCNEs are multi-institutional hubs that are focused on integrating nanotechnology—the development and engineering of devices so small that they are measured on a molecular level—into cancer research. They were established as part of the NCI Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer, an initiative created by the NCI to promote cancer-related nanotechnological research and its increased use in clinical practice.
According to Joe Alper, a senior consultant at the NCI and one of the authors of this plan, the CCNEs represent a different approach from other research grants in which scientists are given money, but no concrete timelines or parameters.
“Each of the teams that were awarded funding had to put together things that they were actually going to accomplish: specific nanotechnology for a certain purpose as well as a time frame within which they were going to complete the project,” Alper said.
Over the past year, Langer and Weissleder worked with a team of more than 50 professors across a variety of disciplines to propose innovative ideas that would contribute to the successful treatment or complete eradication of cancer.
“In addition to putting together an amazing team and writing a great proposal, they have achieved all the things that NCI had hoped: experiments involving multidisciplinary fields, a good