Novel Designs for Targeting and Eliminating Cancer Cells

March 13, 2023

Papa lab graduate students

Professor Anne Papa’s lab focuses on applying bioengineering principles to develop cell-based therapeutic and diagnostic tools for biomedical applications, in the fields of metastatic cancer and vascular disorders.

Their work in metastatic cancer has been centered on a better understanding of the dynamics and interactions of metastasizing cancer cells in the circulation. Such metastatic cancer cells that have leaked from the original site of the tumor into the bloodstream, can lead to the formation of new distant sites of disease and profoundly influence success of cancer treatments and patient outcomes. Developing detailed knowledge of cancer cells in the circulation has been instrumental in engineering novel designs for targeting and eliminating cancer cells in the blood, as well as capturing those cells for further analysis. For example, the lab currently uses platelets as a means of targeting circulating tumor cells due to their high and natural bioaffinity with cancer cells. The goal is to load platelets with various drugs to both target and modulate circulating tumor cell fate and survival.

The lab also studies how cancer cell-derived exosomes influence platelet function and may contribute to cancer-associated thrombosis, a leading cause of mortality and morbidity for cancer patients. Other areas of work in the lab include studies of how nanoparticles influence essential blood clotting and cellular functions, as well as developing novel targeted therapies for acute emergency vascular disorders due to blood clots, such as in ischemic strokes, heart attacks and pulmonary embolism.