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Rationally Designed Supramolecular Bio-inorganic Hydrogels for Tumour Therapy (HOT SHOT)
Start date: Feb 15, 2008, End date: Feb 14, 2010 PROJECT  FINISHED 

"Almost 2 million people in Europe are diagnosed with cancer each year, over half of whom die within 5 years as a consequence. Cancer has been designed by the ESF as one of the priority targets for the development of new technologies. The side effects and poor efficacy of today’s treatments mean there is a pressing need for new innovative multifunctional drug carriers able to specifically target tumours and decrease patient morbidity. HOT SHOT is a multidisciplinary project which proposes such a novel drug delivery approach based on highly engineered nano-materials. The drug carriers will consist of composite hydrogels made of protein-resistant polymer molecules cross linked together by rationally designed self-assembled peptide strands which can disassemble in response to stimuli such as defined temperature and pH transitions. Gold nanorods or nanoshells will be covalently bound to the termini of the peptide strands and embedded within the hydrogels. Thanks to the innovative design and attractive chemical and physical properties of the components, the drug carriers will possess notable properties: a) drug delivery specifically to tumours by means of enhanced permeability of tumoral vascular system to nano-sized hydrogel beads; b) drug release on demand or in response to exact local conditions (i.e. lower pH of the tumoral tissue with respect to blood); c) gold nanoshells and nanorods acting as contrast agents in tumour tomography imaging and d) as heat sources for tumour thermal ablation therapy when irradiated with near-infrared light. HOT SHOT will contribute to the creation of a multidisciplinary network of research groups within Europe in which the fellow will be embedded and experience excellent collaborations. It will provide the fellow with intense multidisciplinary scientific training and significant results in medical and engineering research and thereby an exceptional opportunity to attain professional maturity."

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