Susan Thomas, faculty member of the Parker H. Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience, was recently awarded a three-year, $450,000 grant from the Susan G. Komen Foundation.
The grant – the first Komen award to the Georgia Institute of Technology – will be used to study how targeted delivery technology developed in the Thomas lab can be used to deliver drugs to sentinel lymph nodes in breast cancer patients, a form of immunotherapy.
When cancer cells spread from a primary tumor in the breast, their first stop in the lymph nodes are typically the sentinel lymph nodes. Sentinel lymph nodes are the first lymph nodes to which cancer cells are most likely to spread from a primary tumor. Thomas has been exploring how targeted delivery of therapeutics could promote anti-tumor immunity and hinder tumor growth.
“Immunotherapy has the potential to treat tumors that we can’t actually see,” says Thomas, assistant professor in the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering, who is also affiliated with the Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering.
“But our immune system can see them,” she adds. “So this is a way of teaching our immune system to find the cancer and kill it, or prevent the disease occurrence. If we could teach our immune systems to kill, say, a breast tumor or breast cancer metastases or any other malignant tumor, that would be very beneficial in the long term.”
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