Purdue News

August 10, 2005

Discussion on cancer detection, treatment planned at Purdue

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – A symposium at Purdue University will bring together some of the top minds in oncology and basic science to explore new methods for finding cancer earlier and treating it more effectively.

Progress and Problems in Cancer Detection and Treatment, which will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday (Aug. 16) at the Krannert School of Management, is the kickoff event for Discovery Park's new Oncological Sciences Center, which was announced July 19.

The symposium will include short presentations on various cancers by Indiana University School of Medicine and Mayo Clinic oncologists. One goal of the symposium is to identify areas where Purdue engineers who specialize in nanotechnology can apply engineering principles to identify and combat cancer much earlier than science and technology currently allow.

Marietta Harrison, interim director of the Oncological Sciences Center and associate director of the Purdue Cancer Center, said the purpose of the event is to identify the problems oncologists see in their practice and then use Purdue's expertise in engineering and basic science to come to solutions. Harrison said the doctors attending the symposium are "academic oncologists" who have dual duties of being faculty members and researchers as well as medical doctors who see patients.

"The Indiana University and Mayo Clinic oncologists will tell us the clinical problems and needs associated with cancer that they see in the field, and the Purdue engineers and scientists will share what they have learned in their research to possibly come up with devices or other innovations that could detect cancer in its earliest stage or improve the treatment of existing cancers," Harrison said. "Purdue engineers are hungry to find out what those needs are and are eager to find solutions."

Harrison said an example of collaboration between engineers and scientists in other areas, such as chemistry and biology, is the study of cancer biomarkers. The prostate-specific antigen test – better known as PSA – is one well-known biomarker for cancer. But the goal is to take the study of biomarkers much further, using what are known as nanoparticles, nanocantilevers and nanowires to detect very low amounts of cancer biomarkers in one drop of blood or body fluid. The same technology could be used to detect extremely low levels of circulating cancer cells.

This would be especially useful for the early detection and treatment of a cancer for which there is no effective screening method, such as ovarian cancer, which is often detected at a later stage when symptoms start to appear, Harrison said.

At the event, Purdue President Martin C. Jischke will welcome the scientists to campus, then Indiana University and Mayo Clinic oncologists will present short talks on testicular cancer, ovarian cancer, childhood leukemia, and colon and rectal cancer.

After each presentation, Philip Low, Purdue's J.F. Foster Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, will moderate a discussion among the oncologists and the Purdue engineers and scientists.

There also will be an opportunity for the Purdue, Mayo Clinic and IU scientists to interact at lunch and one-on-one in breakout sessions after the formal presentations.

Harrison hopes this interaction can spark more collaborations among practicing oncologists and basic scientists. Purdue is currently a partner with the IU School of Medicine and Mayo Clinic in cancer research. Purdue scientists are pursuing more opportunities for collaboration and would like to eventually establish a Center for Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence through the National Cancer Institute, which would involve researchers from all three institutions.

"We would like to initiate dynamic projects with the goal of generating new and innovative diagnostic and therapeutic agents," Harrison said. "Using nanotechnology to combat the problem of cancer is an emerging, exciting field. What we hope to provide are creative ideas to combat the cancer problem."

The Oncological Sciences Center is one of four new centers in Purdue's Discovery Park. The others announced so far are centers for energy and the environment.

Discovery Park partners of the Oncological Sciences Center at Purdue are Birck Nanotechnology Center, Bindley Bioscience Center, Discovery Learning Center and Regenstrief Center for Healthcare Engineering. Additional partners include the Cancer Center at Indiana University, Mayo Clinic, Chao Center for Industrial Pharmacy and Contract Manufacturing, Botanical Research Center for Age-Related Diseases and QuarTek Corp.

Discovery Park, under construction on State Street on the west edge of campus, is Purdue's interdisciplinary research hub that brings the university's scientists, researchers, engineers and management experts together on a project-based basis to make basic discoveries available to advance the Indiana economy and solve societal problems by inventing new products and processes.

Writer: Kim Medaris, (765) 494-6998, kmedaris@purdue.edu

Source: Marietta Harrison, (765) 494-9193, harrison@pharmacy.purdue.edu

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; purduenews@purdue.edu


Note to Journalists: Journalists are invited to attend the symposium. For a detailed list of speakers and topics, contact Kim Medaris, Purdue News Service, at (765) 494-6998, kmedaris@purdue.edu.


Related Web site:
Discovery Park Oncological Sciences Center


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