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The study of nanosize particles as drug delivery agents to treat breast cancer and osteoporosis may help millions of U.S. women.
Central Michigan University faculty chemist Choon Young Lee may help more than 120,000 U.S. women who are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. In addition, her work may improve the lives of 10 million Americans with osteoporosis, mostly women, and the 34 million more who have low bone mass. Osteoporosis is a progressive disease that causes bones to become thin and porous, increasing the risk for fractures.
“The investigation of new agents to treat breast cancer and osteoporosis are the foundation of effective treatment methods,” said Lee.
Both breast cancer and osteoporosis are closely related to estrogen function, and half of all breast cancers are hormone dependent.
Lee’s work is involved with biologically linking estrogen to dendrons — pie-shaped dendrimers — to help provide a foundation for new treatment methods. Dendrimers, three-dimensional particles so small they allow the creation of new structures, literally atom-by-atom, have applications in biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, clothing, electronics and more.
Lee will submit a library of possible steroidal, dendron-modified estradiols (an estrogen) as therapeutic agents for screening by the National Cancer Institute for potential benefits in treating hormone-dependent breast cancer and osteoporosis.
The current non-steroidal treatments for breast cancer and osteoporosis have high rates of side effects. By using dendron-based steroidal agents, a higher potency of the drug could be delivered at a lower dose with few or no side effects to patients.
“A higher potency means that a lower dose of the agent is needed to induce the same effect,” said Lee. “An ideal agent to prevent and treat both osteoporosis and breast cancer should stimulate estrogen receptors in the bone tissue and block them in breast tissue so a tumor would stop growing.
Choon works with undergraduate students, giving them hands-on experience with an emerging field of study.
Lee’s work is supported by a $25,000 CMU research grant.
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