The Prostate Cancer Foundation, largely through the generosity of David H. Koch, has given $5 million to four institutions, including Weill Cornell Medical College, to support novel research in prostate cancer. The gift is one of the largest-ever individual donations for prostate cancer research.
The multidisciplinary research team, created by the Prostate Cancer Foundation, will seek to develop a novel nanomedicine for prostate cancer that can be given intravenously and delivered directly to targeted sites of prostate cancer. Nanomedicine is the application of nanotechnology -- engineering compounds or machines on a molecular or atomic scale -- to the prevention and treatment of disease.
At Weill Cornell, the research effort will be led by Dr. Neil Bander, a physician-researcher who heads one of the world's most experienced and accomplished teams in antibody-targeted therapy in urological cancers.
"We are very grateful to Michael Milken and Dr. Jonathan Simons of the Prostate Cancer Foundation and David Koch for their foresight and generosity in supporting a multi-institutional collaboration that brings together leaders in their respective fields with the goal of creating a synergy that will lead to significant benefit for cancer patients. I think we all agree that this is the model required to create complex solutions to solve complex problems," says Dr. Bander, director of urological oncology research and the Bernard and Josephine Chaus Professor of Urological Oncology at Weill Cornell Medical College and a urologist at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical College.
Several years ago, Dr. Bander's team developed the first antibodies to the external domain of prostate-specific membrane antigen (PSMA). PSMA is now widely considered the best prostate cancer cell surface target known. The lead antibody, J591, has been a focus of clinical trials at Weill Cornell, involving the Departments of Urology, Medicine (hematology-oncology) and Radiology (nuclear medicine), as well as at several other institutions. These trials have entered almost 300 patients and have demonstrated sensitive and specific cancer targeting in 97 percent of prostate cancer patients as well as anti-tumor activity.
Dr. Bander is the inventor on patents that are owned by Cornell Research Foundation ("CRF") for the antibody technology described in this release. He is a paid consultant to and owns stock in BZL Biologics, the company to which the patents were licensed by CRF for further research and development.
PSMA has been an attractive target for cancer drug development not only because it is present in high amounts in prostate cancers, but it also is the only known molecular target present on tumor blood vessels that is not present on normal blood vessels. The ability to target PSMA on blood vessels provides a way to directly attack a tumor's blood supply without affecting normal blood vessels.
"Nanotechnology has the potential to cure men with advanced prostate cancer without exposing them to severe side effects," says Mr. Koch, who is a survivor of the disease, along with his three brothers. "The scientific team assembled for this work is the best in the business, and if it is possible for any group to be successful in the development of this therapy, it will be this one."
A unique aspect of the collaboration is that all institutions have agreed to share their intellectual property in order to avoid bottlenecks and barriers to patentability that could potentially impede any advancements.
"I very much look forward to working closely with the nation's leading investigators in the field of nanomedicine to create targeted nanoparticles that can deliver drugs to tumor sites," says Dr. Bander.
The four principal investigators, each leaders in their respective fields, were selected by the Prostate Cancer Foundation and David H. Koch to create the teamwork and cross-disciplinary synergies necessary to accomplish the initiative's goals.
In addition to Dr. Bander, the all-star multidisciplinary team includes Dr. Omid Farokhzad, an expert in nanotechnology therapeutic development at the Harvard Medical School at the Brigham and Women's Hospital and the MIT-Harvard Center for Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence; Dr. Philip Kantoff, a leader in clinical research for prostate cancer at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School; and Robert Langer, ScD, an authority in chemical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dr. Langer, a Cornell alumnus, was recently awarded a National Medal of Science at the White House.
Lipid- or polymer-based nanoparticles have been used to improve the delivery and effectiveness of cancer drugs. Because they're so small, nanoparticles are able to access areas previously unreachable -- such as through cellular walls and inside cells themselves -- greatly increasing drugs' power and reach, and potentially reducing side effects. One example is nanoparticles of glowing cadmium selenide that help surgeons identify cancer tumors. In addition, "nanoshells" coated with gold have been shown to kill cancer tumors in mice. And highly sensitive sensor chips made with "nanowires" can detect early-stage cancer in a blood sample.
Weill Cornell Medical College
Weill Cornell Medical College, Cornell University's medical school located in New York City, is committed to excellence in research, teaching, patient care and the advancement of the art and science of medicine, locally, nationally and globally. Weill Cornell, which is a principal academic affiliate of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, offers an innovative curriculum that integrates the teaching of basic and clinical sciences, problem-based learning, office-based preceptorships, and primary care and doctoring courses. Physicians and scientists of Weill Cornell Medical College are engaged in cutting-edge research in areas such as stem cells, genetics and gene therapy, geriatrics, neuroscience, structural biology, cardiovascular medicine, infectious disease, obesity, cancer, psychiatry and public health -- and continue to delve ever deeper into the molecular basis of disease in an effort to unlock the mysteries of the human body in health and sickness. In its commitment to global health and education, the Medical College has a strong presence in places such as Qatar, Tanzania, Haiti, Brazil, Austria and Turkey. Through the historic Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, the Medical College is the first in the U.S. to offer its M.D. degree overseas. Weill Cornell is the birthplace of many medical advances -- including the development of the Pap test for cervical cancer, the synthesis of penicillin, the first successful embryo-biopsy pregnancy and birth in the U.S., the first clinical trial of gene therapy for Parkinson's disease, the first indication of bone marrow's critical role in tumor growth, and most recently, the world's first successful use of deep brain stimulation to treat a minimally-conscious brain-injured patient.