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Robert Lee, PhD and Yasuro Sugimoto, PhD

Award Name Collaborative Partnership Pilot Award
Award Date 12/01/2011


Development of an RNAi therapy for triple negative breast cancer

photo credit: Robin Hecker

Robert J. Lee, PhD (pictured), Professor in the College of Pharmacy, and Yasuro Sugimoto, PhD, Research Scientist in the College of Pharmacy, received a pilot award from the Center for Clinical and Translational Science for their research involving the development of an RNAi therapy for triple negative breast cancer (TNBC).

TNBC is a form of breast cancer that tests negative for three receptors that make the cancer unresponsive to hormonal therapy. Due to the heterogeneity of the disease, there is no single therapy that is effective against all subtypes of TNCB.

The aim of the project was to synthesize and evaluate a specific type of nanoparticle, called a "liposomal nanoparticle," for the delivery of siRNA as a TNBC subtype specific therapy. RNA interference (RNAi) is a cellular mechanism that inhibits gene expression making them potentially useful in therapeutic treatment for many diseases like cancer.  

While RNAi therapy has been deemed a functional form of therapy for cancer, delivery of siRNA has proven difficult. A shared interest in targeted drug delivery and nanoparitcles led these collaborators to work toward resolving the shortcomings of siRNA delivery and improve cancer treatment.

Published in the January 2013 edition of Nanomedicine, “Human serum albumin-coated lipid nanoparticles for delivery of siRNA to breast cancer” demonstrates the effective delivery of siRNA therapy. Liposomal nanoparticles were coated with human serum albumin, an abundant protein in human blood plasma, and then injected into mice with transplanted breast cancer cells. The mice showed significant reduction in cancerous gene expression, demonstrating the therapeutic capability and effective delivery of siRNA. 

Since the project Sugimoto has returned to Japan. Meanwhile, Lee has remained at The Ohio State University, making new discoveries and developing several nanoparticle patents that have branched off of his CCTS funded work. Some of his patents are a part of the largest licensing agreement from OSU in the last decade on microRNA therapeutic delivery.

Lee credits his initial funding from the CCTS Pilot and Collaborative Studies program with influencing the success of his current projects. “The CCTS funding absolutely helped us and spawned the adventure of other projects,” Lee said.

By Kasasha Arum, September 30, 2014

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