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Oklahoma State University

Dr. Ranjan receives funding to pursue device directed nanomedicine program

Monday, October 14, 2019

dr ranjan and focused ultrasound
Ashish Ranjan, BVSc, PhD

Ashish Ranjan, BVSc, PhD, Kerr Foundation Endowed Chair, and associate professor in the department of physiological sciences, leads the Nanomedicine and Targeted Therapy Laboratory at Oklahoma State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. Recently the lab received close to $2.5 million for research, a huge boost to the focused ultrasound directed nanomedicine program! Specifically, a five-year RO1 grant from the National Cancer Institute worth nearly $1.7 million will help the team develop a novel nanoparticle that detects cancer cells by immune system in combination with focused ultrasound. Additional support from Petco Foundation of $500,000 and Focused Ultrasound Foundation of $200,000 will help Ranjan’s team translate these findings in veterinary patients with spontaneous cancers.

“Currently, surgical resection is the standard of care or first-line treatment of early-stage melanoma,” Ranjan said. “However, if the cancer spreads (metastasizes) to other organs (liver, kidney, lymph node, etc.), surgical resection is ineffective. For such patients, a combination of radiotherapy and anticancer drugs are often employed, but such treatment modalities cause toxic side effects in normal tissues and inefficient clearance of cancerous cells, resulting in high recurrence and fatality rates in patients. To address these barriers, our research aims to develop non-invasive focused sound wave approaches and immune activating nanoparticles that induce the immune system to target the cancer.”

A veterinary scientist, Ranjan professionally trained at Virginia Tech and the National Institutes of Health in device directed nanomedicines prior to joining OSU. He quickly established an excellent laboratory team and research infrastructure at OSU’s veterinary college. As the nation’s first veterinary college in the country to provide focused ultrasound as a service to pet owners, the program has raised national visibility and helped develop meaningful collaborations with research intensive institutions.

“The research program has been successful in obtaining extramural support at both the state and national level and is a strong indicator of our success,” said Dr. Jerry Malayer, associate dean for research and graduate education at the veterinary college.

“The university strongly supports our mission,” Ranjan continued. “For example, the president’s faculty fellow and the veterinary college’s intramural funding supported our lab with studies focused on immune system activation using sound waves. The data from these studies provided the framework needed for federal grant proposals and training opportunities for students and postdoctoral researchers.”

“The role of the immune system in cancer therapy is known, but how to tailor these for optimal therapeutic outcomes requires further investigation. Dr. Ranjan’s research strives to address these in a meaningful and clinical way, which explains the excitement of these funding agencies to support this program,” said Dr. Carlos Risco, dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine.

The Focused Ultrasound Foundation recently appointed Ranjan to their Veterinary Program Scientific Advisory Board. The main purpose of the Scientific Advisory Board is to provide advice regarding the direction and scope of the veterinary program. Specific goals include identifying the greatest clinical needs in the veterinary realm, defining functional specifications for a focused ultrasound device, developing a better understanding of the likely client base, and outlining a business model. The RO1 grant was also recommended for the prestigious NCI MERIT Award, which is given to select researchers nationally. The MERIT award will allow Dr. Ranjan’s laboratory to receive extended funding. NCI is using the MERIT Award to give eligible investigators the opportunity to obtain up to seven years of support. The funding comes in two segments with the first being an initial 5-year award and the second being an extension of up to two additional years. Recipients of the extension are based on an expedited NCI review of the team's accomplishments during the initial funding timeframe.

“We are proud to support Dr. Ranjan’s cutting-edge research that can improve oncologic treatment of canine patients. Strengthening an understanding of focused ultrasound technologies to improve cancer outcomes in shelter and owned canine patients, with an eye towards translation to human cancer, made funding this research particularly important for Petco Foundation,” said Susanne Kogut, president of the Petco Foundation.

“OSU has developed a unique veterinary program that provides groundbreaking therapies like focused ultrasound for patients in need. We are very happy to partner with Dr. Ranjan’s research program and are looking forward to the clinical trial results,” said Dr. Kelsie Timbie, Focused Ultrasound veterinary program director.

“These grants are a true example of team work” Ranjan added. “Credit goes to the tireless effort of laboratory personnel (Sri Nandhini Sethuraman, Mohit Singh, Kalyani Ektate, Harshini Ashar, Joshua VanOsdol and Mike Gorbet) and clinicians such as Dr. Daniel Dugat. Her surgery team works with us to get the cases we need to assess feasibility in canine models. We also partner with medical institutes of repute who are engaged in testing immune therapies in patients. Ultimately, the true reward will come when some of our new drug agents are translated for patient use. Towards these goals, we have submitted a request to the USDA to allow us to investigate the nanoparticle agent in cancer patients. We look forward to sharing these data in the coming years.”

If you would like to support research at Oklahoma State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, please contact Ashley Hesser, assistant director of development with the OSU Foundation, at 405-385-0715 or ahesser@osugiving.com.

MEDIA CONTACT: Derinda Blakeney, APR | OSU College of Veterinary Medicine | 405-744-6740 | derinda@okstate.edu

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