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$1.9M grant supports project to deliver colorectal cancer drug via magnetic resonance


Montreal, QC – The Québec Consortium for Drug Discovery (CQDM) has granted $1.9 million in funding to Professor Sylvain Martel, director of Polytechnique Montréal’s Nanorobotics Laboratory, for his research project on colorectal cancer treatment.

Professor Martel was the world’s first researcher to guide a magnetic sphere, in vivo, through an artery, and he is again planning to test the limits of technology in a new project to deliver a drug via magnetic resonance. Having recently succeeded in guiding microcarriers loaded with cancer-fighting medication into a rabbit’s liver, he says he now hopes to apply the technique in humans within four years to treat colorectal cancer.

Bacteria will be used deliver the drugs to the tumour site. With a diameter of 2 micrometres, or 25 times smaller than the diameter of a microcarrier, the bacteria have the advantage of being able to navigate through tiny blood vessels to reach targets that are inaccessible to microcarriers. The cancer-fighting drug is placed in a capsule and attached to the bacteria. An artificial pole is created to attract them to the centre of the tumour, where they will die after 30 to 40 minutes. The envelope breaks and the drug is released.

The project is the result of close collaboration with Université de Montréal, McGill University and Univalor.

“It’s quite a big challenge to bring together seasoned researchers from various disciplines and to break through the barriers and differences in scientific language,” says Professor Martel. “Engineering is unfortunately often excluded from medical research. We forget that it can play key roles in areas other than traditional engineering fields.”

The work of his team and its collaborators is being carried out in partnership with three pharmaceutical industry giants: AstraZeneca Canada, Merck Frosst Canada and Pfizer Canada.