Breast cancer: smart nanogold spheres to defeat it

Funding Successful. This project reached its goal before 10/07/2015.

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Cancer affects millions of people every year. Breast cancer is the most common invasive cancer in females worldwide. It accounts for 16% of all female cancers and 22.9% of invasive cancers in women. Breast cancer rates are much higher in developed nations compared to developing ones.

Conventional approaches to cancer therapy, although they are effective at killing cancer cells, may still fail due to inadequate biodistribution and unwanted side effects.

Nanotechnology-based approaches provide a promising alternative, with the possibility of targeting cells at an early stage, during their transformation into cancer cells.

The researches perfomed in my laboratory are focused in the development of nanosystems, their characterization and effectivenss in biological systems, as documented by our scientific publications. In particular, our group is also performing an in vitro experimental research (NATO project) that is going to the International Space Station (ISS) on Monday April 13th, 2015 with SpaceX CRS-6 and will be carried out by Samantha Cristoforetti – Italian Air Force captain and member of ESA‘s Astronaut Corps – onboard the ISS for the Futura Mission. ( and

With the nanospheres‘project, we aim to use a nanotechnology-based approach to develop a new biocompatible drug-loaded nanocarrier in order to improve the effectiveness of the chemotherapy treatment, reducing the side effects.

Nanotechnology approach has the potential to revolutionize the diagnosis and therapy of tumors. Preliminary studies performed in our laboratories and in cooperation with Brighton laboratories (UK) allowed us to develop an efficient method for the functionalization of gold nanoparticles with a biopolymer followed by multiple drug-loading. Finally, we performed the toxicity evaluation of the empty and drug-loaded nanocarrier on healthy cells and tumor cell lines.


To this end, we would like to point out that the funds raised through this campaign will be used to:

  1. investigate deeply the chemical and physical characterization of the nanosystem, consisting of gold nanoparticles functionalized with biopolymer and loaded with a chemotherapeutic agent;
  2. improve the selectivity of the nanocarrier, whose effectiveness against tumor cells was proven by our previous studies, by optimizing the amount of drug lodaded on the nanocarrier;
  3. validate in vitro the developed nanosystem by testing with tumoral and non tumoral cells.


Annually in Italy are diagnosed 48,000 new cases of breast cancer. The increased incidence of breast cancer showed an increment among young women, aged between 25 and 44 years.

The side effects of chemotherapy are often the main cause of concern for those who get cancer. The main objective of this project is to improve the chemotherapy treatment of breast cancer and reduce the time of rehabilitation, improving the quality of life of the patient. In fact, the development of drug-loaded gold nanoparticles will allow us to:


  • strike selectively the cancer cells;
  • decrease the dose of the administered medication;
  • monitor the patient during therapy.

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For donation exceeding 200 euros, the donor’s name will be mention in the poster presentation at the national and international congresses. The copy of the poster in PDF format will be sent tot he donator by E-Mail.




For donations exceeding 500 euros, the donor's name will be mentioned in the publication regarding the achieved results. The copy of the manuscript  in PDF format will be sent to the donator by E-Mail.



Premi in italiano


Awards in english



Livia Visai

Prof. | Founder

Assistant Professor in Biochemistry at the Department of Molecular Medicine (, Medicine Faculty at the University of Pavia . She received her degree "cum laude" in Biological Sciences at the University of Pavia in 1985. In 1989, She obtained the title of Ph.D in Biochemistry at the Biochemistry Department of Pavia's University. She was then trained as a Post-doctoral fellow in Biochemistry. In 1994 She won a position of Confirmed Research in Biochemistry and since 2005 She is an Assistant Professor in Biochemistry. In 1985-1987, she obtained a position as a Researcher Assistant at the “Connective Tissue Research Laboratory” of the Department of Biochemistry at University of Alabama in Birmingham (USA); she spent few months more in 2001, 2009, 2011 and 2012, at the “Center for Extracellular Matrix Biology” at the Institute of Bioscences and Technology of the Texas A&M University System Health Science Center, Houston, Texas (U.S.A.).

She is also a confirmed member of the directive committee of the Italian Society for Biomaterials ( up to 2017. Since 2006, Dr. Visai is also in the Editorial Board of “The Open Biomedical Engineering Journal“ (, “Biochemistry & Analytical Biochemistry” (, “The Scientific World Journal” ( Since 2012 She is also an Associate Editor of “Journal of Applied Biomaterials and functionalized materials” ( ).

Since 2009, She is Vice-director of the Intedipartimental Center for Tissue Engineering (CIT: ) of Pavia, created in 2006. Furthermore, She recently got the apical position as a project leader for the Nanotechnology Laboratory at Fondazione Salvatore Maugeri (FSM) (2011).

She is also an inventor of 4 International Patents. She has more than 130 peer-reviewed published articles (, 4 chapter books and various reviews.

She has been funded with national grants (PRIN and FIRB), various industrial contracts, and Foundations (BRE and San Paolo). She has also been funded by the Italian Space Agency (ASI) ( on a project for the space human flight (2013) (BLOG: .

Her main activities are focused on: .

  1. The application of nanotechnology in space (ASI/ESA/NASA)
  2. The application of nanotechnology in the diagnosis and therapy of tumors
  3. The application of nanotechnology for tissue regeneration
  4. The application of nanotechnology for the reduction of bacterial infection

She also participate at 4 COST ACTIONS: COST Action ELECTROSPINNING MP1206 ( , COST Action MODENA TD 1204 (, COST Action EMF-MED BM 1309 (, COST Action iPROMEDAI TD1305 (

Nora Bloise

Post-doctoral fellow at the Department of Molecular Medicine of the Pavia University

She received her degree "cum laude" in Medical Biotechnology at the University of Florence in 2009 and then she moved to Pavia University where she received a pre-doctoral fellowship and then a Ph.D fellowship in 2011. She just obtained in 2015 a Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences, curriculum Biochemistry. Dr Bloise spent also a training period as Ph.D student at laboratories of Stem Cell Institute (SCIL) of Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium, from November 2013 to July 2014. During this period she worked on a project related to the molecular interaction between human pluripotent stem cells and new biomaterials to support lineage specific commitment. Currently, she is a Post-doctoral fellow in biochemistry at the Department of Molecular Medicine of Pavia’s University. Her main research interests focus on the understanding of the role of biophysical factors on modulating the cell behaviour, with special attention to the application of low level laser therapy and new biomaterials from advanced nanotechnologies to stem cells research. The overall goal of current research activity is to develop novel therapeutic approaches for tissue regeneration. She is author of 12 published papers in peer-reviewed international journals, and presented her research results at national and international meetings.

Francesco Cristofaro

PhD Student in Biomedical Sciences at the Department of Molecular Medicine of the Pavia University
He graduated cum laudem in Sperimental and Applied Biology at University of Pavia and he spent 6 months (from February 2013 to August 2013) at University of Brighton (UK) laboratories for his thesis project on developing nanoparticle-based drug delivery system. He is now a Ph.D. Student in Biomedical Science. He is working on bone remodeling using a new nanotechnological approach in collaboration with the Italian Space Agency.

Marco Vercellino

Fellowship at the COST ACTION MODENA TD1204-
He is now at the principal research organization in Luxembourg for a short fellowship.  In 2011 he graduated in Pharmaceutics Biotechnology at the Amedeo Avogadro University with a thesis on nanotoxicology; in 2013 he was abilitated as a biologist. In 2015, just recently he obtained the Ph.D in Biomedical Science, curriculum in Biochemistry, discussing a thesis on the effects exerted by the electromagnetic fields on human bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells. The research activity were performed in under the supervison of Prof. Visai. He is author of 7 published articles.

Concetta Floriana Amoroso

She is recipient of a fellowship at the Department of Molecular Medicine, University of Pavia. She graduated in Medical and Pharmaceutical Biotechnology at the University of Pavia in 2014. Dr Amoroso spent a traininig period at laboratories of the University of Brighton (UK) where she was involved in the synthesis, characterization and study of biocompatibility of gold nanoparticles functionalized with dendrimer conjugated with a chemotherapeutic agent, the subject of this research project of which she is responsible together with Prof. Livia Visai.

Giulia Risi

Fellowship at the Department of Chemistry of the Pavia University
She graduated in Analytical Chemistry in 2012, and has gained two years of multidisciplinary experience (including both chemistry and biology). In particular, she was responsible for the study of the physico/chemical characterization and biological characterization of carbon nanotubes as vectors of a chemotherapeutic drug in the field of nanotechnology applied to medicine (drug delivery), as well as in vitro tests of synthetic molecules such as anticancer agents. She has actively participated to a funded project of Ricerca Finalizzata of Fondazione Salvatore Maugeri.

Annachiara Monaco


She received her master’s degree cum laudem in Experimental and Applied Biology at the University of Pavia in 2012. She is a research fellow in Prof Visai’s Lab where she studies the biological effects of carbon nanotubes on human macrophages (THP-1). This study is part of an integrated approach to evaluate biological effects on lung, cardiovascular system and skin of occupational exposure to nanomaterials of a funded project of the Ricerca Finalizzata of Fondazione Salvatore Maugeri. Moreover, she is also a student in prevention techniques in the environment and in the workplaces.

Matteo Santin


Professor of Tissue Regeneration

Brighton Studies in Tissue-mimicry and Aided Regeneration (BrightSTAR)

Brighton Centre for Regenerative Medicine (BCRM)

School of Pharmacy & Biomolecular Sciences

University of Brighton

Huxley Building Lewes Road


Lorenzo Moroni


Lorenzo Moroni, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Department of Complex Tissue Regeneration

Maastricht University

The Netherlands

Piersandro Pallavicini


inLAB - Dipartimento di Chimica Generale

Università di Pavia

viale Taramelli, 12 - 27100 Pavia


Claudia Vineis


CNR-ISMAC, Istituto per lo Studio delle Macromolecole

Corso Giuseppe Pella, 16

13900 Biella (ITALY)

Barbara Cravello

Associazione Tessile e Salute (

Giovanna Chiorino


Paola Petrini

Lab. Biomateriali Dip. di Chimica, Materiali e Ingegneria Chimica 'G. Natta' Politecnico di Milano Piazza L. da Vinci, 32 20133 Milano Italy

Mustafazade Gunel

ERASMUS MUNDUS fellow at the Molecular Medicine Department of the Pavia University. Gunel graduated in 2012 in Medical Biotechnology at Baku State University - Arzebaijan. From September 2013 she’s receiving an ERASMUS MUNDUS fellowship in Visai’s lab in Molecular Medicine Department at University of Pavia. Her research program is about biocompatibility and cell differentiation studies of biomaterials for tissue engineering applications.

Sandra Dirè


Professore di Chimica

Materials Chemistry Group and "Klaus Mueller" NMR Laboratory

Dipartimento di Ingegneria industriale, Università di Trento

Vincenzo M. Sglavo

Professore di Scienza dei Materiali e Tecnologia Dipartimento di Ingegneria industriale, Università di Trento

Pierluigi Politi

Professore di Psichiatria, Università di Pavia

Natascia Brondino

Dr Natascia Brondino, Ph.D in Psichiatria, Università di Pavia

Marcello Imbriani

Direttore Dipartimento di Sanità Publica, Medicina Sperimentale e Forense, Università di Pavia

Alfredo Raglio

Consulente di Ricerca Dipartimento di Sanità Publica, Medicina Sperimentale e Forense, Università di Pavia

Giovanna Bruni

Ricercatore di Chimica-Fisica dell’Università di Pavia

Marilisa Rotondo


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  • 61 Backers

    Minimum Donation

  • 6 Backers

    For donation exceeding 200 euros, the donor’s name will be mention in the poster presentation at the national and international congresses.

  • 24 Backers

    For donations exceeding 500 euros, the donor's name will be mentioned in the publication regarding the achieved results.