Battling cancer with engineering: National Cancer Institute funds Cornell-led $13 million research center

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) has funded the new Center on the Microenvironment and Metastasis, which will be headquartered at Cornell. The center will focus on using nanobiotechnology and other related physical science approaches to advance research on cancer.

"Our center will be organized to unravel cancer's complexity -- using methods derived from the physical sciences and engineering -- to further understand how cancer travels through the human body," said Harold Craighead, Cornell's C.W. Lake Professor of Engineering, director of Cornell's Nanobiotechnology Center, and the principal investigator and director of the new center. "The research may help identify new drug possibilities to inhibit metastasis and tumor growth."

The new center is one of 12 new research centers across the nation announced Oct. 26 by the NCI. Cornell's grant is for $13 million over five years.

Cornell will serve as the lead institution in a partnership with Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City and the University at Buffalo. Barbara Hempstead, professor of medicine and co-chief of the Division of Hematology and Medical Oncology at Weill Cornell Medical College, will serve as the senior co-investigator.

Nationally, the 12 centers will bring a new cadre of theoretical physicists, mathematicians, chemists and engineers to the study of cancer. During the initiative, the Physical Sciences-Oncology Centers will take new, nontraditional approaches to cancer research by studying the physical laws and principles of cancer; evolution and evolutionary theory of cancer; information coding, decoding, transfer and translation in cancer; and ways to de-convolute cancer's complexity.

Cornell's center will focus on three key projects:

Gail M. Seigel, assistant professor at University at Buffalo's Center for Hearing and Deafness, also serves on the team.

Ultimately, through coordinated development and testing of novel approaches to studying cancer processes, the network of centers is expected to generate new bodies of knowledge, and identify and define critical aspects of physics, chemistry and engineering that operate at all levels in cancer processes.

NCI is part of the National Institutes of Health.

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Blaine Friedlander