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NDSU researchers collaborate with Mayo Clinic on bone cancer treatment

Posted on 2/13/2014

An NDSU graduate student's collaborative research at the Mayo Clinic may lead to the development of a novel, polymer-based treatment for osteosarcoma, or bone cancer.

Olena Kudina, fourth-year graduate student in NDSU's Department of Coatings and Polymeric Materials, recently spent five weeks as a research trainee at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. She was working as part of a research team at Mayo's Department of Orthopedic Surgery, led by Dr. Maran Avudaiappan.

Kudina's research is part of a collaborative effort between Mayo's orthopedic surgery department and an NDSU coatings and polymeric materials research group led by associate professor Andriy Voronov. Voronov is Kudina's adviser.

Osteosarcoma is the most common type of malignant bone tumor in children and young adults. It is the sixth-leading cancer in children under age 15. Thirty percent of bone cancer patients develop metastasis and have a 61 percent five-year survival rate with current treatment methods.

The standard treatment in most countries consists of presurgical chemotherapy, followed by surgical resection of the primary tumor after the second or third cycle of the yearlong chemotherapy regimen.

Although a combination of surgery to remove the primary tumor and chemotherapy prior to and after the surgery has led to improved survival rates over the past several decades, a uniformly successful treatment is not yet available.

Kudina's research focuses on a novel polymer-based treatment of bone cancer. Polymers are chains of molecules. Their length and molecular content can create a variety of physical and chemical properties.

New smart polymers designed in Voronov's lab are capable of incorporating cargo drugs, which are otherwise insoluble in water, and can bind with and traverse the membranes of targeted cells. Due to the polymer-responsive behavior and properties, the polymer-based "vehicles" enhance drug uptake by tumor cells membrane.

Kudina's research objective at Mayo Clinic was to manufacture smart polymers using techniques recently developed at NDSU, load the polymers with the cancer drug candidate, curcumin, and then investigate the interaction of the loaded carriers with bone cancer cells. The final goal was to deliver the curcumin across the cell membrane into the tumor cells and treat the cancer.

The first obtained results from cell culture and analysis of cancer tissues from patients at Mayo Clinic are promising, Voronov said. They strongly support the research hypotheses of the scientists in NDSU and Mayo Clinic groups.

"Our next step would be understanding of mechanism of how curcumin works in osteosarcoma cells, and exploring molecular pathways of polymer-mediated curcumin delivery to target osteosarcoma," Voronov said. "If successful, our research has a potential to be a new approach improving treatment of osteosarcoma patients both in early and advanced stages of the disease."

Mayo Clinic is one of the world's leading health care and research facilities, and is ranked as the No. 3 overall hospital in U.S.

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