Driving Innovation in Multiple Myeloma Research

Gregory Lanza is helping find new nanotherapies to treat cancer

New nanotherapies to fight multiple myeloma, a cancer of bone marrow immune cells, are racing toward clinical use thanks in part to a $13.7 million National Cancer Institute award to School of Medicine researchers in December 2015.

Gregory Lanza, MD, the Oliver M. Langenberg Distinguished Professor of the Science and Practice of Medicine, co-directs the university’s new Center for Multiple Myeloma Nanotherapy along with Samuel Achilefu, the Michel M. Ter-Pogossian Professor of Radiology and professor of biomedical engineering, biochemistry, and molecular biophysics.

Their focus on translating research into useful therapies helped secure the grant. “This program is really geared toward taking that good science and reaching out,” Lanza says. “We’re finding ways to move the technologies faster to market.”

To achieve that, the center—one of six Centers of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence supported by the National Cancer Institute—is assessing multiple avenues, including forming a partnership with an existing pharmaceutical company, out- licensing, and creating a biotechnology startup to manufacture new nanotherapy  drugs.

These drugs, says Lanza, target cancer cells and thus reduce side effects.

“Nanomedicine affords us a mechanism to target cancer with small doses of very potent drugs at a cancer, while sparing the vitality and functionality of non-diseased organ systems,” Lanza says. “We’ve taken the program, which wasn’t expected to produce results for several years,
and tried to compress our identification of our leading drug candidates and start a multimonth comparison.”