Nanotechnologies to fight cancer relapse

Title of the research project

XtraUS - Fighting cancer relapse with remote activation of smart and targeted nanoconstructs

Scientific area 

Life science, Chemistry, Bioengineering

Project coordinator

Valentina Cauda


XtraUS project will test and validate an innovative technology to fight circulating tumor cells (CTCs) and consequently reduce the relapse of a tumor disease.

Description of the research project 

Actually, many cancer patients unfortunately get into a recurrence of the primary tumor disease, since their cancer is not fully remitted. In particular, circulating tumor cells (CTCs) in the blood stream have a key role in cancer progression and recurrence. However, their such tiny amount is difficult to detect by conventional laboratory tests.

XtraUS aims at validating a breakthrough technology to fight CTCs in the bloodstream and thus reduce further cancer relapse. Innovative nanoparticles, conveniently equipped to avoid being perceived as “enemies” by the patient’s body, will be injected into patient’s blood to target the CTCs. The blood will then flow in an extracorporeal blood circulation set-up and specific stimuli will activate the nanoparticles and consequently kill the CTCs. The collateral damage to both blood and adjacent healthy tissues is reduced in comparison to other systems, as the nanoparticle activation occurs in the extra body circulating system.

The result will be a more effective, safer, personalized and selective treatment to fight cancer relapse and metastasis spreading than the current ones.

XtraUS is a “proof of concept project” which applies what demonstrated in the ERC StG project TrojaNanoHorse, dedicated to the creation of a novel theranostic nanoconstruct constituted by zinc oxide nanocrystals and a non-immunogenic lipidic bilayer.

Impact on society 

From a public health standpoint, the proposed treatment can increase life-expectation in patients, reduce metastasis and tumor relapse. From an economic standpoint, the reduction of cancer relapse will significantly reduce all the related costs. Moreover, XtraUS is a versatile technology, with potential applications also on many other diseases, with huge societal and economic impacts on public health.

Short CV of project coordinator 

Valentina Cauda graduated in Chemical Engineering in 2004 at Politecnico di Torino and then received her Ph.D. in Material Science and Technology in 2008. After a short period at the University of Madrid, she worked as a post-doc at the University of Munich, Germany on nanoparticles for drug delivery and tumor cell targeting. From 2010 to 2015 she worked as Senior Post Doc at the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia in Torino, and she is at present Associate Professor at Politecnico di Torino. For her research results she received in 2010 the prize for young researchers at the Chemistry Department of the University of Munich, in 2013 she got the Giovedì Scienza award, in 2015 the Zonta Prize for Chemistry, and in 2017 the USERN Prize for Biological Sciences. She is author of 95 papers on peer-reviewed international journals and she holds 4 international patents. She received a 1.5 million euro research grant from the European Research Council with the project TrojaNanoHorse.

XtraUSproject has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme grant agreement No.957563

  • Budget: 150.000
  • Start date: 1/10/2020
  • End date: 30/04/2022