On the Road to Ending Cancer

Photo by Sophia Marchese | The Signal

Imagine a world without cancer. Dr. Ning Fang’s development of Single Particle Orientation and Rotational Tracking (SPORT) is on the track of making that dream a reality.

Fang is a chemistry professor at Georgia State. He developed SPORT to target cancer cells and track the relationship between a single particle and live cells.

The research for SPORT began more than three years ago.

Fang’s research was initially driven by curiosity. He was fascinated with nanomaterials, but wondered how he could use them for biomedical purposes. Once he started his independent career, he noticed how there weren’t any tools that studied the rotational motions of individual objects inside cells. Therefore, he began working on SPORT.

Fang and his research team collaborated with Georgia Tech professor, Mostafa A. El-Sayed, in 2016. In their collaboration, they united the use of gold nanoparticles to inhibit and prevent metastasis.

Gold nanoparticles are capable of restricting metastasis, which is the spread of cancer cells throughout the body. Metastasis is the primary reason why so many patients lose the battle to cancer.

According to Kuangcai Chen, a member of Fang’s research team, the team decided to utilize gold nanoparticles because they are “more stable, easy to synthesize and less toxic.”

Fang said that many researchers do not understand the capabilities of gold nanoparticles, according to news.gsu.edu. However, SPORT provides an explanation by demonstrating the relationship between the gold nanoparticle and metastasis.

Fang tested gold nanoparticles on a lung cancer cell in his lab. The cancer cell was moving rapidly before endocytosis was performed. However, shortly after the gold nanoparticles entered the cell’s membrane, the cell completely slowed down, according to Fang.

The particle targeted the nucleus of the cancer cell and made it more rigid, which ultimately slowed down movement and migration. Therefore, the cancer cell is easier to track and kill without harming other cells, according to Fang.

Most cancer therapy treatments often kill both cancer cells and healthy cells. However, SPORT only kills the main target, which is the cancer cell, and leaves the healthy cells unaffected. The use of gold nanoparticles is ultimately safer for cancer patients, according to Fang.

“Chemotherapy kills the entire area, which is why people get really sick,” said Seth Filbrun, a first year graduate student at Georgia State.

Because of their discoveries, Fang and his research team are in the process of trying to get SPORT on the market. Their research is currently being funded by National Science Foundation (NSF). However, it may take between 10 to 15 years, according to Chen, because the product has to go through several levels to get approved by the FDA.