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Cancer & Physical Sciences

The Cancer and Physical Sciences Program of the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center is a basic research program that evolved from the Cancer Genes and Molecular Targeting Program as the nanotechnology and physical sciences teams were working to address translational aspects of cancer diagnosis and treatment. Strength in the physical sciences at NU continued to grow with the expansion of the NCI funded CCNE and the development of the NCI funded PSOC, which led to a stronger focus in that area and resulted in a name change for the program itself. Because of this evolution, some members were better aligned with other programs and were reassigned while new members joined resulting in the current program focus area.

Membership Roster

This program unites fundamental chemistry, physical sciences and bioengineering groups whose focus is on cancer-relevant therapeutic and diagnostic agents that are being developed using nano-scale materials and physical sciences approaches. Vadim Backman, PhD, an internationally-recognized bioengineer, is the Program Leader, and Gayle Woloschak, PhD, an internationally-known biochemist and molecular biologist, is the Program Co-Leader.

This is a uniquely interdisciplinary program composed of 31 faculty from 10 departments and 3 schools. Between August 2007 and July 2012 there have been 415 cancer-relevant publications from the current program members. Fifty-eight (14%) of these publications represent intra-programmatic collaborations and 119 (28.7%) represent inter-programmatic collaborations.

Total current cancer-relevant peer-reviewed funding is $13,328,855 (direct) with $3,104,954 (direct) from NCI, and $10,223,901 (direct) from other peer-reviewed sources.

Innovative new tools for the diagnosis, detection, and treatment of cancer have come from this program including new imaging agents, new approaches for cancer detection and novel therapeutic modalities. The program serves as a forum to link basic biological investigation with practical applications from the fields of chemistry, physics, engineering and nanotechnology. Program members are highly interactive and collaborate both intra- and inter-programmatically on a broad spectrum of translational projects.

The goals of the Cancer and Physical Sciences Program are to:

  1. Study fundamental mechanisms and identify molecular pathways that control growth, differentiation and oncogenesis by physical science methods;
  2. Develop novel diagnostic agents and techniques that facilitate early detection of cancer and that can be coupled with therapy;
  3. Discover and develop new classes of therapeutic agents that exhibit low systemic toxicity and target factors involved in growth and differentiation of neoplastic cells.