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UCF works toward chemo alternative

By Sarah Judsen
On October 30, 2013

Tiny particles stand to make a big impact on cancer research at UCF.

The NanoScience Technology Center, in collaboration with the Institute for Simulation and Training at UCF, hosted a workshop on Oct. 11 that studied data collection, analysis and modeling of nanoparticles and cell interactions for cancer research. These studies could lead to significant advances in research for the disease, specifically in creating alternatives to harsh treatments like chemotherapy and radiation.

“The idea was to bring different people together and really try to introduce each other to our different fields,” Laurene Tetard, an assistant professor at the UCF NanoScience Technology Center, said. “We wanted to see if we could start a new project in which we can overlap the benefits from our own experiences and create new avenues of research.”

Those in attendance included Tetard; Heiko Enderling, an assistant member at the Moffitt Cancer Center; Ivan Garibay, an assistant professor and the director of the UCF Institution for Simulation and Training; Ozlem Garibay, the associate director of Research Information Systems at UCF’s Office of Research and Commercialization and Aniket Bhattacharya, an associate physics professor at UCF.

The researchers teamed up to share and discuss different ideas about cancer research, specifically in the realm of computer simulation and nanoparticle exploration.

“This kind of research that actually affects real-world problems, like cancer, needs to be approached in an interdisciplinary way. I think that computers play an important role in this type of research,” Ivan Garibay said. “Technology and medicine are getting to a point where they are merging and that synergy is going to be very productive for cancer research.”

Ivan Garibay said computer simulation is a more refined way of finding a “needle in a haystack." Computer-generated models of cells make it easier for scientists to study cancer cell growth and approach the cancer cells with nanoparticles.

So what does this mean for cancer research? In simplest terms, nanoparticles work as miniature carriers that deliver medicine directly to cancer cells, Tetard, who works on the experimental side of the research, said.

These tiny, medicine-delivering vehicles may be an emerging alternative to harsh drugs.

“Nanoparticles allow you to design smart drugs, drugs that actually act like an intelligent machine-like robot who potentially can execute any problem at the molecular level,” Ivan Garibay said. “Once the nanoparticles find the cancer cells, they can tell us what medicine needs to be used and delivered. They are the next generation of drugs.”

With continued work on this exploration, Ivan Garibay sees much promise in what kind of advances this research could bring.

Such a precise process of delivering drugs to cancerous cells carries the possibility of destroying those cells and getting closer to a cure for cancer. This prospect is one of the bigger payoffs that the workshop focused on, Ivan Garibay said.

Though still in the early stages of their work in this field, this group of researchers aims to continue building their team, planning to meet again this week at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa to continue their efforts, Ivan Garibay said.

Ozlem Garibay, who discussed funding plans and high-performance computing resources for the research at the workshop, sees promise in this field of study even for current medical students at UCF.

“Cancer study is one of the main areas of study for the UCF medical schools, so this research could be very beneficial to their studies,” Ozlem Garibay said. “We hope it could contribute to their work.”

If students are interested in partaking in the research they are welcome to contact Tetard about being involved.

Students from any field of science are invited to participate, Tetard said.

“Now is a good time to get involved in this because it’s the beginning stages of the research,” Tetard said. “As this grows, we’re excited to get people to join us in our work.”

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