Cancer Killers

From the Fall 2018 Issue of Minnesota Alumni

Today, 1 in 8 women in the United States will develop breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. Now, researchers at the U’s College of Pharmacy’s Wagner Research Lab are offering hope to these women and other cancer patients with a new treatment that uses nanotechnology to transform immune cells into cancer killers.

Professor Carston R. Wagner and his team designed proteinbased nanorings—microscopic crystals that are shaped like rings—that bind to immune cells, specifically T cells. These modified T cells, which are called Prosthetic Antigen Receptors (PAR-T), are then able to quickly find and destroy tumor cells. Wagner’s team was also able to figure out how to switch the nanorings off in order to prevent the toxic side effects that can occur with cellbased anticancer therapies.

ST_2018_Fall_CancerKillers_Inline So far, the U team has been able to employ the technology to safely eradicate solid tumors in mice. Their research has also showed an effectiveness against breast cancer. The hope is to one day be able to use the PAR-T approach to target cancer stem cells to prevent cancers from recurring.

“With some luck, using the tools of chemical biology and nanotechnology, we may be able to expand the scope of cancer immunotherapy for the treatment of some of the toughest cancers we face,” says Wagner.

This research was published in the May 2018 issue of ACS Nano.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Send letters and comments to


See All Stories

Stay Connected.