Nanosized, with huge potential

Xiaoyang Qi is making a big difference by thinking small – nanosized, in fact.

Since the early 2000s, Qi, PhD, a professor in the Division of Hematology Oncology at the UC College of Medicine, has been tweaking his discovery, a treatment called SapC-DOPS, to address various types of cancers. It is now being studied in clinical trials for brain cancers.

With this new project, Qi and his team will target the tumor microenvironment by blocking a protein released by pancreatic tumors. This protein usually protects the microenvironment by blocking the immune response to cancer cells, allowing them to survive and spread.

“We have preliminary data showing that blocking this protein with either neutralizing antibodies or with protein-lipid nanoparticles containing an agent called SapC-DOPG completely reverses immune suppression,” he says. “Using human cancer samples, we hope to confirm that this type of nanovesicle is specific to the cancer cells for pancreatic tumors and causes little side effects. We will also use pancreatic cancer animal models to assess how much of the protein is released in relation to tumor growth.”

He adds that results for this study could be very promising, as past studies have shown benefit for treating other cancers.

“The results from this preclinical study in animal models could be rapidly applied to humans because we’ve seen success in phase I clinical trials using the same therapy in patients with brain tumors and other types of cancer,” he says.

“This is the dream we all have as researchers – to see our basic science discoveries make a difference for patients. I’m excited to continue research on this treatment and delivery system and to see if and how it can benefit patients with pancreatic cancer.”

Featured image of Xiaoyang Qi in his lab by Colleen Kelley/UC Creative + Brand.

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