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Archive - Oct 9, 2013

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“Zone in with Zon”—Nanomedicine Used to Target Breast Cancer Tumors

Dr. Gerald Zon’s latest “Zone in with Zon” blog post, dated October 7, 2013, and published by TriLink BioTechnologies of San Diego, reviews some of the latest advances in breast cancer research in recognition of October as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Dr. Zon begins with an outline of some of the grim statistics about the deadly impact of breast cancer today and then goes on to describe existing treatments and a number of exciting and promising new therapeutic approaches that are being developed. Statistics from the NIH predict 232,340 new breast cancer cases and 39,620 deaths in 2013 in the U.S., Dr. Zon said. Nevertheless, in women diagnosed with breast cancer in the period of 1999 through 2006, the 5-year survival rate was 90%, which represents a significant improvement since the mid-1970s and is attributed to more screening and improved treatments. Among these treatments are tamoxifen and another selective estrogen receptor modulator (SERM), raloxifene, which have been approved by the FDA, and the monoclonal antibody trastuzumab, which is an accepted treatment for breast cancers that overproduce a protein called human epidermal growth factor receptor 2, or HER2. Dr. Zon also provided a description of cancer research expert Esther H. Chang, M.D., Ph.D., who has made significant achievements in specifically targeting tumors using antibody-fragment-tagged liposomal nanoparticles. Dr. Zon noted that Dr. Chang has referred to this process as involving “tiny little Fed Ex trucks.” Dr. Zon noted that tumor-targeted nanomedicine delivery of the p53 gene (SGT-53) has already successfully completed Phase I safety trials. He went on to note that nanomedicine researchers are currently seeking to develop a number of revolutionary tools.

2013 Chemistry Nobel Prize Awarded for Computer Modeling of Chemical Reactions

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has decided, on October 9, 2013, to award the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for 2013 to Martin Karplus, Université de Strasbourg, France and Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA; Michael Levitt, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA, USA; and Arieh Warshel, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA “for the development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems.” Chemists once created models of molecules using plastic balls and sticks. Today, the modelling is carried out in computers. In the 1970s, Martin Karplus, Michael Levitt, and Arieh Warshel laid the foundation for the powerful programs that are used to understand and predict chemical processes. Computer models mirroring real life have become crucial for most advances made in chemistry today. Chemical reactions occur at lightning speed. In a fraction of a millisecond, electrons jump from one atomic nucleus to the other. Classical chemistry has a hard time keeping up; it is virtually impossible to experimentally map every little step in a chemical process. Aided by the methods now awarded with the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, scientists let computers unveil chemical processes, such as a catalyst’s purification of exhaust fumes or the photosynthesis in green leaves. The work of Karplus, Levitt, and Warshel is ground-breaking in that they managed to make Newton’s classical physics work side-by-side with the fundamentally different quantum physics. Previously, chemists had to choose to use one or the other. The strength of classical physics was that calculations were simple and could be used to model really large molecules. Its weakness was that it offered no way to simulate chemical reactions. For that purpose, chemists instead had to use quantum physics.