$3.7M NIH grant will boost study of new cancer therapy


In a major advancement for cancer research at the University of Michigan, Mats Ljungman has been awarded a $3.7 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.

Ljungman, professor of radiation oncology in the Medical School and professor of environmental health sciences in the School of Public Health, will use the funds to build upon his innovative work in cancer therapy.

A photo of Mats Ljungman
Mats Ljungman

The funding is directed toward the study of KLIPP therapy, a pioneering treatment method conceptualized by Ljungman, who is also co-director of U-M’s Center for RNA Biomedicine. The term “KLIPP” derives from the Swedish language, symbolizing both cutting and opportunity — a fitting name for a method that targets cancer at its most vulnerable points.

This therapy is predicated on striking the structural variant junctions that are present in all cancer forms. These junctions serve as critical points that KLIPP leverages to selectively attack cancer cells, a method that has shown potential in preclinical trials.

Ljungman’s previous work has demonstrated the technique’s ability to destroy cancer cells in culture. The grant will enable further research, particularly in testing how KLIPP can be most effectively delivered to combat bladder cancer in mouse models.


The next step involves refining the delivery of KLIPP — a method utilizing lipid nanoparticles for precision-targeting cancer cells, ensuring it does less harm to the surrounding healthy tissue.

The research team previously noted the challenges of reaching all cancer cells within solid tumors, especially aggressive ones. This new influx of funding shall aid in exploring innovative delivery mechanisms that can complement smaller tumors or assist post-surgery recovery.

The investigative team alongside Ljungman will consist of a transdisciplinary group of specialists, including:

  • Phillip Palmbos, associate professor of internal medicine in the Medical School.
  • Anna Schwendeman, H W Vahlteich Professor and professor of pharmaceutical sciences in the College of Pharmacy.
  • Thomas E. Wilson, professor of pathology, and of human genetics in the Medical School.
  • Nils Walter, the Francis S. Collins Collegiate Professor of Chemistry, Biophysics and Biological Chemistry, and professor of chemistry, and of biophysics in LSA; and professor of biological chemistry in the Medical School.

Ljungman is optimistic about the potential of KLIPP to evolve into a versatile platform for precision cancer treatment. The overarching goal of his research is to transition from the experimental phase to clinical trials, ideally leading to individually tailored treatments made possible through U-M’s M-RNA Therapeutics initiative.

The Center for RNA Biomedicine, where Ljungman’s work is positioned, is a key part of U-M’s commitment to fostering cutting-edge research. With over $132 million invested in scientific research initiatives, the center is dedicated to creating collaborative spaces for novel discoveries and rapid therapeutic development.


Leave a comment

Commenting is closed for this article. Please read our comment guidelines for more information.