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How Cancer and Nanotechnology Came Together in New Mexico

New Mexico has outstanding capabilities and breadth in materials synthesis and self-assembly, nanolithography, interrogative platforms, and functional micro/macrosystems.

The UNM Center for High Technology Materials (CHTM), has programs in optoelectronics and microelectronics that extend naturally to the nanoscale. Two areas of international recognition are self-assembled quantum dots and nanoscale lithography.

The UNM Center for Microengineered Materials (CMEM), emphasizes nanoscale catalysis and self-assembly of nanoscale thin films and provides extensive materials characterization facilities.

The Advanced Materials Laboratory, a collaborative facility housing researchers from both Sandia National Laboratories and the University New Mexico, specializes in the synthesis and characterization of new ceramic and glass materials, including nanoparticles at the bio/inorganic interface.

The Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies (CINT) at Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratories, is one of five NanoScale Research Centers (NSRCs) established by DOE and open to external users, including UNM students.

Nanoscience and microsystems are themes of many other programs at UNM, the New Mexico National Labs and in local biotechnology start-ups.

Cancer Research in New Mexico

The UNM Cancer Center is one of only 64 National Cancer Institute designated cancer centers in the nation. It is home to 85 board-certified oncology physicians who provide cancer services to an ethnically diverse and widely spread population that includes all of New Mexico as well as communities in West Texas, Southern Colorado and North-Eastern Arizona. These physicians also provide strong infrastructure for clinical trials.

The UNMCC is also home to more than 120 research scientists who together hold over $40 million in peer-reviewed grants. UNMCC biophysicists and cell biologists emphasize applications of nanoprobes and microdevices for single molecule fluorescence imaging and for high throughput flow cytometry leading to drug discovery. Our molecular geneticists are developing nano/micro-technology-based low cost, ultra-fast sequencing technologies. These and other technology-intensive research projects depend on collaborations with physical and computational scientists and engineers.

The UNMCC houses two National Centers for research that integrates computational modeling and nano and microtechnologies with cancer biology.

The University of New Mexico Center for Molecular Discovery (UNMCMD) is one of nine specialty screening centers within the NIH Roadmap-funded MLPCN focusing on multiplexed, high throughput flow cytometry.

The New Mexico Center for Spatiotemporal Modeling of Cell Signaling is one of 12 NIGMS-funded National Centers for Systems Biology. The New Mexico Center focuses on the integration of measurement, new technology development and mathematical modeling to understand the spatial and temporal regulation of signaling pathways implicated in human disease, especially inflammatory diseases and cancer.

The UNMCC also houses one of the 12 active Cancer Nanotechnology Platform Partnership (CNPP) grants awarded by the NCI Cancer Alliance. This interdisciplinary project, "Peptide-directed protocells and virus-like particles - new nanoparticle platforms for cancer diagnosis and treatment,"engages faculty and students from Pathology, Molecular Genetics, Chemical Engineering and Sandia National Labs.

The Nano/Micro/Onco Intersection

In 2005, the UNM Cancer Center (UNMCC) gained national recognition as a NCI-designated Cancer Center and UNM's application to NSF for an Integrated Graduate Education and Research Trainee (IGERT) grant in Nanoscience and Microsystems (NSMS) was selected for co-funding by the NCI Alliance for Cancer Nanotechnology. A year later, the New Mexico legislature approved a new interdisciplinary degree program at UNM in Nanoscience and Microsystems.

The resulting integration of nanoscale engineering and physical sciences approaches into cancer research generated a series of entirely new interdisciplinary research teams focused on harnessing nanoscale phenomena for understanding, detecting and treating cancer.

In October, 2010, the New Mexico CNTC was funded as one of six NCI Cancer Nanotechnology Training Centers nationwide based on our unique resources in cancer biology and nanotechnology and on our track record of integrating these resources to fight cancer. Information about all the CNTCs is at http://nano.cancer.gov/action/programs/cntc.asp

2011 Boston Meeting of the NCI Alliance PIs

Click here for a group photo from the September 2011 Boston Meeting of the NCI Alliance PIs.