Nanoparticle Study Attracts State Cancer Research Funds
UT Dallas Chemist Uses Flourescent Properties of Gold to Help Illuminate Tumor Cells

Dr. Jie Zheng, a member of the chemistry faculty at UT Dallas, has received more than $1.2 million in funding from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) for work on safer nanoparticles that can adhere to prostate tumor cells, making earlier diagnosis possible.

UT Dallas chemistry faculty member Jie Zheng

Dr. Jie Zheng’s project uses gold nanoparticles with medical imaging tools to detect tumors.

Dr. Zheng, assistant professor of chemistry, explores biomedical applications of tiny gold nanoparticles that respond to the acidic microenvironments of prostate tumors. When introduced in the body, the particles can take advantages of a slight difference in pH between the tumors and normal tissue, essentially lighting up cancer cells to which they adhere, making them easier to detect with a variety of medical imaging tools.

“Gold metal looks not just beautiful, but also is extremely useful on the nanoscale. When these gold particles are scaled down, they start showing many interesting properties that are not observed at the bulk level. One of such properties is fluorescence, which holds promise to improve the sensitivity in cancer diagnosis,” Zheng said.

Zheng’s group is also looking for ways to change the surface chemistry of the particles, so that the nanoparticles can be cleared out of the body after imaging diagnosis. Zheng is the latest UT Dallas faculty member to win a CPRIT award.  He joins two other faculty members, Dr. Jung-Mo Ahn and Dr. Raimund Ober, who have received research awards through CPRIT.

“We are extremely pleased that Jie Zheng earned this prestigious funding,” said Dr. John Ferraris, Chemistry Department head. “Dr. Zheng’s peers deemed his research worthy of such an award, and we look forward to the results of his work.”

Cancer Research at UT Dallas

UT Dallas has received research funds from CPRIT twice previously:

Under its latest grant cycle, the institute is providing more than $100 million to Texas cancer research projects. Statewide, the institute has awarded more than $550 million in funding for cancer research, prevention and commercialization projects over the last two years. UT Dallas faculty members have earned research awards in each of CPRIT’s four funding cycles thus far.

“I am very honored to receive this award,” Zheng said. “We hope to achieve success in our own research, and to collaborate with others and eventually develop some clinically applicable nanotechnologies that make cancer diagnosis easier and earlier.”

Texas voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2007 establishing CPRIT and authorizing the state to issue $3 billion in bonds to fund cancer research in the state. 



Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].

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