20 million kronor for cancer research
RESEARCH. Working in collaboration with five partners, Professor Anette Gjörloff Wingren is about to embark on a new cancer research project. The project, which is a continuation of her previous research, will focus on producing methods to detect and study aggressive cancer cells. The researchers hope that in time they can contribute to more effective cancer treatment. The research is being funded by the EU.
"Aggressive metastasising cancer cells have a clear and relatively unique sugar structure on the cell surface. By using nanoparticles, which bind to sugar, we will be able to detect the cancer cells and study them. We hope to be able to demonstrate that the more aggressive the cancer cell, the more sugar will be found on its surface," said Anette Gjörloff Wingren, Professor at Malmö University and attached to Biofilms – Research Center for Biointerfaces.
The research project is a collaborative venture between Malmö University, Umeå University, Copenhagen University, Åbo University, the German testing and research institute BAM and the company Phase Holographic Imaging in Lund.
Important to detect aggressive cancer
At present, it is extremely difficult to detect the cancer cells that are metastasising, thus preventing treatment from being given in time for the most aggressive and fatal forms of cancer. In her earlier research, Professor Gjörloff Wingren and her colleagues produced an artificial lectin in the form of nanoparticles that made it possible to recognise the aggressive cancer cells as the lectin binds to the sugar structure on the cell surface.
"Our initial focus will be on modifying and improving the particles and we will then examine how they bind to the cell surface," said Gjörloff Wingren. "We believe these particles will be considerably better than the antibodies that are currently available."
Making use of clinical material
Working closely with the company Phase Holographic Imaging, the research team will study the cells using a special microscope that allows the cells to be viewed in 3D.
"Once the particles have bound to the cell surface, we will examine the nature of the attachment. The microscope also allows us to measure the cancer cell, which could provide us with an indication of the degree to which the particles have become attached."
The researchers will then move on to use clinical material, including patient samples and mouse models.
"As the tumour grows, we will inject particles to study when and how they bind to the cells," Gjörloff Wingren explained.