March 13, 2012 | by City of Hope Staff
Baseball players are passionate about winning. Scientists are just as passionate about finding answers. One Major League Baseball team has found a way to use their winning drive to help give researchers a competitive edge against cancer.
Through their official charity, ThinkCure, the Los Angeles Dodgers are boosting cancer research at City of Hope and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. And ThinkCure recently announced a new set of grants aimed at knocking cancer out of the park.
Jacob Berlin, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Molecular Medicine at City of Hope, is leading one of the studies that received funding. He’s focusing on building a better cancer treatment using nanoparticles.
Berlin builds nanoparticles — tiny tubes each about 10,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair — with great care. They have to be small enough to get into cancer cells easily, but big enough to carry a payload, such as chemotherapy, into the malignant cells where it is most effective at killing the cells.
Berlin is building different types of nanoparticles using different kinds of atoms including gold and carbon. His aim: to see which type gets taken in by cancer cells the most. The right type of nanoparticle then can be used as a targeted cancer killer.
Part of his efforts also will go toward tracking these nanoparticles using magnetic resonance imaging, usually called MRI, and other methods. This can help prove that the nanoparticles are actually delivering their cancer-killing payload where it’s needed — inside cancer cells — rather than into healthy tissue. And proving that can help speed the new treatment strategy through government approvals, so patients who can benefit from it can get it.