Dr. Cai’s Lab Granted Nearly $1.1M for Prostate and Breast Cancer Research

Posted on April 2011

High congratulations are in order for Dr. Weibo Cai and Yunan Yang who were both recently named as recipients for highly competitive grants from the Department of Defense (DoD).

Dr. Cai, an Assistant Professor of Radiology, Medical Physics, and Biomedical Engineering, was awarded an Idea Development Award from the the DoD’s Prostate Cancer Research Program. His proposal received an outstanding score of 1.9 and was granted a $654,000 budget. A total of 806 applications were received by the Prostate Cancer Research Program, and only 6 percent of them were recommended for funding.

The objective of Dr. Cai’s project is to develop an arsenic-based radiopharmaceutical platform for IGF1R-targeted imaging and therapy of prostate cancer (PCa). Ultimately, the agents developed in this proposal will be able to identify the right PCa patient population for the right therapy at the right time, as well as to provide quantitative, non-invasive, and accurate information about the therapeutic responses in real-time. The Co-Investigator on this grant is Dr. Todd E. Barnhart (Medical Physics). Collaborators on this project include Prof. George Wilding (Director of the UW Carbone Cancer Center), Prof. David F. Jarrard (John Livesey Chair in Urologic Oncology), Prof. Robert J. Nickles (Medical Physics), and Prof. Ajit K. Verma (Human Oncology).

Additionally, Yang, a Research Associate for Dr. Cai, was chosen to receive a Postdoctoral Fellowship Award from the DoD’s Breast Cancer Research Program. This proposal was also given high marks, scoring 1.4, and given an approximate budget of $445,000. Only 9.6 percent of the total 303 Postdoctoral Fellowship applications received by the Breast Cancer Research Program were recommended for funding.

The objective of Yang’s project is to develop a biodegradable Zinc Oxide (ZnO) nanomaterial platform for efficient vasculature targeting of Breast Cancer (BCa) metastasis, and to optimize its optical property and conjugation chemistry for non-invasive dual-modality tracking (positron emission tomography and optical). Metastases are the cause of 90% of human cancer deaths. Sixty to 70 percent of patients who die of BCa eventually have metastases in their lungs. Ultimately, the biocompatible, “deliver and dissolve” ZnO nanomaterials will deliver various anti-cancer agents to the tumor sites with low systemic toxicity, thereby controlling the growth of cancer cells and eventually eradicating BCa. Collaborators on this project include Prof. Xudong Wang (Material Science and Engineering), Prof. Wei Xu (McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research), Prof. Robert J. Nickles (Medical Physics), and Dr. Todd E. Barnhart (Medical Physics).

Congratulations again to Dr. Cai and Yunan Yang, along with everyone else involved in this project!