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Pakistan-US Science and Technology Cooperation Program                                                            
Phase 2 (2006 Deadline)

Nanomedicine for Cancer Research     

Kenneth Watkin, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Atiya Abbasi, University of Karachi
Pakistani Funding (HEC):  $137,219
US Funding:    $250,000
Project Dates on US Side: February 1, 2007 - October 31, 2011

Project Overview

More than 70 percent of the developing world’s population still depends on complementary and alternative systems of medicine (CAM). Evidence-based CAM therapies have shown remarkable success in healing acute as well as chronic diseases. The Indo-Pakistani subcontinent is rich in such remedial sources, most of which remain untouched and unstudied. Pakistan is among the world’s leading exporters of medicinal plants, but there is a need to build partnerships that help provide the infrastructure and training to apply and use recently develop new rapid screening techniques for evidence-based evaluation of various plant extracts.

Researchers at UIUC have employed a new label-free optical biosensor system for high-throughput evaluation of natural products. This new biosensor system is being used for rapid evaluation of the breast cancer apoptotic potential of plant extracts. Preliminary research has revealed several potential extracts that kill breast cancer cells. The potential cancer treatment extract candidates will progress to clinical evaluation. In order to achieve this vision, the partners involved in this project have devised a systematic plan by concentrating on cancer research and education and integrating these aspects with existing capabilities and infrastructure at the HEJ Research Institute of Chemistry at the University of Karachi. The application of this type of nanomedicine technology has enormous potential, not only for cancer treatment but also for the medicinal plant industry in Pakistan. Applications include high-throughput pharmaceutical compound screening, molecular diagnostics, PCR, electrophoresis, label-free microarrays, proteomics, environmental detection, and whole cell assays.

Major Results

  • Analyzed 23 plant extracts from the University of Karachi and added data to a medicinal plant database; presented research results at about ten national / international workshops and conferences
  • Published a joint paper on cytotoxicity effects of two Pakistani plant extracts on breast and pancreatic cancer cells
  • Offered semester - long nanomedicine courses to participants in the United States and Pakistan via video link
  • Provided academic advice to more than 15 Pakistani graduate and undergraduate students
  • Established linkages with eight other Pakistani academic and research institutions

Quarterly Update

During the first two quarters in 2011, the research team continued building a medicinal plant database, including 23 plant extracts provided by the University of Karachi. A CancerNano website is being developed to serve as repository for data collected during the project. Because making in-person visits has been difficult, the collaborators at the University of Karachi and University of Illinois have communicated regularly by videoconferencing, and in 2011 they published a joint paper in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine entitled “Cytotoxicity Effects of Amoora Rohituka and Chittagonga on Breast and Pancreatic Cancer Cells.”

Progress Report Summaries

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