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January 27th, 2010
Don't talk to Erkki Ruoslahti about happy accidents or serendipity. As the Finnish-born cell biologist (whose name is pronounced "air∙key roo∙slot∙ee") can attest from personal experience, "good luck" strikes only after years of sustained, methodical, and painstaking work. In Ruoslahti's case, that translates to more than 25 years studying the fundamental cellular biology by which cancer cells commandeer the body's otherwise healthy resources to feed malignant tumors with a fresh blood supply. Last month, Ruoslahti now working at UCSB co-published a research paper in the prestigious scientific journal Cancer Cell (along with colleagues from MIT and UC San Diego) that could prove nothing less than groundbreaking in how cancer tumors are first detected and then attacked. Thanks to the new breakthrough which fused Ruoslahti's insights into the fundamental biology of cancer cells with nanotechnology delivery systems perfected by other scientists the research team figured out how to get bigger payloads of cancer-fighting medicines deeper into the cancer tumors of mice than ever before.
For prospective cancer patients who might soon be facing the well-documented agonies of chemotherapy in which all-out chemical warfare is waged on the body's cells in order to destroy the relatively few malignant ones the implications of this research are staggering. "The more drug we have in the tumor, the bigger the effect is on the tumor," Ruoslahti explained. "But it's only the tumor that gets more drug; the normal tissues don't. That should reduce the side effects."
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