Hedi Hunt successfully defended her Ph.D. thesis "Precision targeting of intraperitoneal tumors with peptide-guided nanocarriers" on April 18th, 2019. Her thesis dealt with the development of peptide-guided nanoparticles for therapy and imaging of peritoneal carcinomatosis. We wish Hedi good luck in her future career!
Image: Hedi Hunt and her opponent Professor Pirjo Laakkonen PhD of the University of Helsinki (Finland) during the thesis discussion.
We look for talented M.Sc. and PhD candidates (molecular medicine, cancer biology, drug delivery, nanomedicine) to join our lab in fall 2019.
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Dr. Teesalu has given a series of invited talks on international conferences in Europe and in the US: The 4th Brain Tumors Conference 2018: From Biology to Therapy ( June 21-23, 2018, Warsaw, Poland), Frontiers in Delivery of Therapeutics (August 21-23 2018, Tartu, Estonia), 11th European and Global Summit for Clinical Nanomedicine, Targeted Delivery and Precision Medicine, „The Building Blocks to Personalized Medicine“ (September 2 ‐ 5, 2018, Basel Switzerland), Boulder Peptide Symposium (September 24-27, 2018, Boulder, USA), workshop on self assembly and hierarchical materials in biomedicine: drug delivery, tissue engineering, sensing and safety (October 8 – 10, 2018, San Sebastián, Spain). The mission of the talks was to increase the awareness of nanomedicine and drug delivery community on the tumor homing peptides developed at our laboratory and establish new collaborations.
Dr. Teesalu (left) with Dr. Sergio Moya (the organizer of the workshop on self assembly and hierarchical materials in biomedicine in San Sebastián, Spain
We have designed new nanoparticles that detect small breast tumors using the clinically used medical imaging modality Positron Emission Tomography (PET).
The particles are polymeric vesicles (polymersomes) made from biocompatible components polyethyleneglycol (PEG) and polycaprolactone (PCL). We found that functionalization with a tumor penetrating peptide discovered in our group ("LinTT1") boosted the accumulation of the particles in the tumor to allow sensitive detection of breast tumors modeled in mice. The polymersomes used in the study are versatile carriers that can be loaded with chemotherapeutic agents to make the drugs more selective and decrease side effects.
This work was performed in collaboration with the group of Dr. Sergio Moya at the Center of Cooperative Investigation in Biomaterials (CIC BiomaGUNE) in San Sebastian (Spain) and group of Prof. Twan Lammers of RWTH Aachen University, Aachen (Germany).
Image caption:PET images taken 48hours after intravenous injection of untargeted polymersomes and LinTT1-targeted polymersomes. The location of the tumors is marked with red arrow and both tumors had the same volume. The detection limit of the tumors using PET images was significantly lowered when using LinTT1 guided polymersomes.
Link to the paper: https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.24588
The translational work at the Lab of Cancer Biology in 2017 was recognized by University of Tartu by awarding the head of the laboratory Tambet Teesalu the prize for research entrepreneurship.
Lorena, Hedi and Tambet from LCB published a review entitled „Peritoneal Carcinomatosis Targeting with Tumor Homing Peptides“ in Molecules (2018, 23(5), 1190; https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules23051190). The review summarizes progress from our and other research labs on affinity targeting of intraperitoneal anticancer compounds, imaging agents and nanoparticles with tumor-homing peptides. We review classes of tumor-homing peptides relevant for PC targeting, payloads for peptide-guided precision delivery, applications for targeted compounds, and the effects of nanoformulation of drugs and imaging agents on affinity-based tumor delivery.
Lab of cancer biology and other groups of the Deparment of Biomedicine (groups of Molecular Pathology, RNA Biology, and Human Genetics) had a day full of stimulating presentations and academic exchange at the beautiful Võrtsjärve Research Station/Lake Museum. Presenters from our laboratory were Anett Laarmann (Development of tumor penetrating antibodies), Anni Lepland (Therapeutic precision targeting of tumor-associated macrophages), Prakash Lingasamy (Dual-specific tumor targeting novel peptide for drug delivery), and Valeria Sidorenko (Smart nanoparticles for breast cancer detection and therapy).
Successful grant applications
Dr. Teesalu was awarded two prestigious grants:
(1) ~1M EUR Estonian Research Council grant to peptide-based develop transport systems to cross blood brain barrier
(2) 150.000 EUR European Research Council proof of concept grant to develop precision glioblastoma nanotherapies (the first ever ERC proof of concept grant to be awarded to an Estonian researcher).
In addition, Dr. Teesalu established a partnership in EUR 700.000 industrial collaboration project to develop affinity ligand-drug conjugates for precision cancer therapy with Toxinvent LLC (Tartu, Estonia).
Anne-Mari Anton Willmore successfully defended her Ph.D. thesis „Silver nanoparticles for cancer research“ on November 17th, 2917. Her thesis dealt with the development of silver nanoparticles as a cancer research tool and potential nanocarrier for targeted tumor delivery.
Image: Anne Mari Anton Willmore and her opponent Professor Hélder A. Santos (D.Sc. Tech.) of the University of Helsinki (Finland) during the thesis discussion.
The Ruoslahti Lab in La Jolla, in collaboration with our lab, has found a biomarker of early Alzheimer's disease (AD). This biomarker, identified as the protein Connective tissue growth factor (CTGF) is deposited on the brain blood vessels of early AD mice. We have also identified a peptide (named DAG) that recognizes CTGF and homes to early AD mice, well before the appearance of amyloid beta plaques. This peptide can take with it iron oxide nanoparticles that can serve as contrast in Magnetic Resonance Imaging of AD lesions.
Link to the paper: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-017-01096-0
Link to the news coverage: Cancer biologists from the University of Tartu help make an important discovery on Alzheimer’s disease
Image: Brain of a mouse with early Alzheimer's disease injected with green fluorescent DAG peptide.. The target protein, CTGF (magenta), appears on the blood vessels (red) of AD brains much before the appearance of amyloid beta plaques. The DAG peptide (green) specifically recognizes CTGF on these blood vessels upon intravenous administration. Credit: Pablo Scodeller and Aman Mann.