(4h) Engineering Systems to Study and Control Tumor Progression and Metastasis | AIChE

(4h) Engineering Systems to Study and Control Tumor Progression and Metastasis


Azarin, S. M. - Presenter, Northwestern University

Most cancer deaths result from metastasis, which often goes undetected until multiple organs have been affected, at which point the disease is incurable. The cell microenvironment plays a critical role in every stage of cancer progression, but the mechanisms through which the microenvironment drives various events in the metastatic cascade remain poorly understood. The goal of my research is to develop novel techniques for elucidating the role of the microenvironment during various stages of cancer progression in order to identify potential targets for early intervention and detection of metastatic disease. During my doctoral research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I developed strategies to engineer the human pluripotent stem cell microenvironment in vitro in order to regulate cell growth and differentiation to various cell types, including cardiomyocytes and brain-specific endothelial cells. As a postdoctoral researcher at Northwestern University I have pursued novel methods to control and study the cancer cell microenvironment though utilization of a cellular array that provides high-throughput analysis of dynamic transcription factor activity and techniques to create controlled environments in vivo using biomaterial scaffolds that can be modified to include transplanted cells, extracellular matrix proteins and gene delivery vectors. I have applied these tools toward understanding the role of the extracellular matrix in driving colon cancer initiation and progression as well as developing biomaterial scaffolds to attract metastatic breast cancer cells in vivo that can be coupled with label-free non-invasive imaging techniques to provide a method for early detection of metastatic disease. This poster highlights the application of both in vitro and in vivo tools to control the cell microenvironment in order to elucidate mechanisms of tumor progression and metastasis and to develop novel therapeutic strategies and detection techniques to enable intervention while the disease burden is low.