Chemical engineer studies breast cancer by building bone, brain and lung tissues
Shelly Peyton, a chemical engineer at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, says scientists know that breast cancer will spread to many different types of tissues in the body, and that this migration is the key reason the cancer is deadly. What they don't know is why some forms of the cancer move to the brain, while others seek out bone or lung tissues.
Peyton is now using a three-year, $590,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to study how different types of breast cancer interact with different human tissues – tissues she and her research team can create in the laboratory to study how the cancer cells behave as these cells and tissues interact.
She also says by studying the destination of the cancer cells in the body, not the primary site where the cancer first develops, she hopes to be able to develop patient-specific therapies that can attack the cancer as it tries to seek out and colonize these diverse tissues.
Because Peyton is trying a new approach to understanding breast cancer, one based in engineering, not more traditional medical studies, her grant actually came from a subset of the NSF called the Physical and Engineering Sciences in Oncology, she says. "I think they saw what I was doing as a next step in the research on this disease," Peyton says.
The problem scientists face in combatting breast cancer is complex, and lends itself to new methods that are outside traditional medical research. Peyton says scientists understand that the reason 90 percent of the patients die from breast cancer is because it has spread to other parts of the body – a process known as metastasis. They also know that it moves to several very specific types of human tissues, depending on the type of breast cancer. Her task is to unravel the questions about which type of cancer moves to each type of tissue and to hopefully find a way to stop the spread of the disease.
"The critical question for me is where does it go and why," Peyton says. "We think there is some mechanical relationship there, but we don't know what it is."
Peyton will seek answers by combining her engineering expertise in creating biomaterials that mimic specific body tissues with a systematic measurement of the biological responses to certain types of cancer. Her team will build bone, brain and lung tissues in the laboratory and form those tissues around different kinds of cancer cells. Using this method, they can analyze how the cancer cells and tissues interact. This can provide information on how the cancer grows once it arrives in the new tissues and what attracts the cancer cells in the first place, Peyton says.
Peyton creates testing platforms from polymers that have many key aspects of human tissues. When the artificial tissues are subject to real cancer cells, she says, it's possible to see how the disease develops and how cells move within those diseased tissues.
It's her dual role as biologist and an engineer that has opened up this type of research, Peyton says. "We are biologists enough where we can study cancer," she says, "and we're materials scientists enough to make the polymer tissue platforms."
Once the information is gathered, the results will then be subject to statistical modeling designed by her colleague Nicolas Reich, a UMass Amherst research professor in biostatistics. Peyton's plan is to correlate all these results so her lab can identify or create a drug for each specific cell-tissue interaction for each type of breast cancer. That way, they can develop patient-specific treatments.
"So we not only want to kill the breast cancer cells, but also block their ability to spread to other tissues in the body," says Peyton. "That would be a revolutionary therapy that can be geared for each individual patient."
Provided by University of Massachusetts Amherst
- Engineer builds tissue models to study diseases May 12, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- Researchers discover protein that could help prevent the spread of cancer May 04, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- Will my breast cancer spread? Discovery may predict probability of metastasis Oct 23, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- Scientists discover that squeezed cells pop out of overcrowded tissues Apr 16, 2012 | not rated yet | 0
- Tracking breast cancer cells on the move Jun 14, 2012 | not rated yet | 0
- Motion perception revisited: High Phi effect challenges established motion perception assumptions Apr 23, 2013 | 3 / 5 (2) | 2
- Anything you can do I can do better: Neuromolecular foundations of the superiority illusion (Update) Apr 02, 2013 | 4.5 / 5 (11) | 5
- The visual system as economist: Neural resource allocation in visual adaptation Mar 30, 2013 | 5 / 5 (2) | 9
- Separate lives: Neuronal and organismal lifespans decoupled Mar 27, 2013 | 4.9 / 5 (8) | 0
- Sizing things up: The evolutionary neurobiology of scale invariance Feb 28, 2013 | 4.8 / 5 (10) | 14
How can there be a term called "intestinal metaplasia" of stomach
4 hours ago Hello everyone, Ok Stomach's normal epithelium is simple columnar, now in intestinal type of adenocarcinoma of stomach it undergoes "intestinal...
Pressure-volume curve: Elastic Recoil Pressure don't make sense
May 18, 2013 From pressure-volume curve of the lung and chest wall (attached photo), I don't understand why would the elastic recoil pressure of the lung is...
If you became brain-dead, would you want them to pull the plug?
May 17, 2013 I'd want the rest of me to stay alive. Sure it's a lousy way to live but it beats being all-the-way dead. Maybe if I make it 20 years they'll...
MRI bill question
May 15, 2013 Dear PFers, The hospital gave us a $12k bill for one MRI (head with contrast). The people I talked to at the hospital tell me that they do not...
Ratio of Hydrogen of Oxygen in Dessicated Animal Protein
May 13, 2013 As an experiment, for the past few months I've been consuming at least one portion of Jell-O or unflavored Knox gelatin per day. I'm 64, in very...
Alcohol and acetaminophen
May 13, 2013 Edit: sorry for the typo in the title , can't edit I looked around on google quite a bit and it's very hard to find precise information on the...
- More from Physics Forums - Medical Sciences
More news stories
The surgical management of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) in U.S. hospitals varies widely depending on the race of the patient, according to a new study.
Cancer 1 hour ago | not rated yet | 0
Treatment with an Alpha-1 proteinase inhibitor (A1-PI), a naturally occurring protein that protects lung tissue from breakdown and protects the lung's elasticity, is effective in slowing the progression of emphysema in patients ...
Cancer 1 hour ago | not rated yet | 0
Scientists from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and Lund University, Sweden, have bioengineered a novel molecule which has been proven to successfully kill tumour cells.
Cancer 2 hours ago | 5 / 5 (1) | 0
An article published on the journal Nature describes the major role that Pyruvate dehydrogenase (PDH) —an enzyme of cellular energy metabolism— plays in the regulation of the cellular senescence induce ...
Cancer 2 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
(Medical Xpress)—Scientists at the School of Medicine have shown that their previously identified therapeutic approach to fight cancer via immune cells called macrophages also prompts the disease-fighting killer T cells ...
Cancer 4 hours ago | not rated yet | 0 |
(Medical Xpress)—Native peoples in regions where cameras are uncommon sometimes react with caution when their picture is taken. The fear that something must have been stolen from them to create the photo ...
14 minutes ago | not rated yet | 0 |
Australian scientists have charted the path of insulin action in cells in precise detail like never before. This provides a comprehensive blueprint for understanding what goes wrong in diabetes.
1 minute ago | not rated yet | 0 |
In a remote fishing community in Venezuela, a lone fisherman sits on a cliff overlooking the southern Caribbean Sea. This man –– the lookout –– is responsible for directing his comrades on the water, ...
2 hours ago | not rated yet | 0 |
(Medical Xpress)—A research team, led by Jeremy Barr, a biology post-doctoral fellow, unveils a new immune system that protects humans and animals from infection.
16 hours ago | 4.7 / 5 (16) | 7 |
Johns Hopkins researchers say they have discovered specific chemical alterations in two genes that, when present during pregnancy, reliably predict whether a woman will develop postpartum depression.
7 hours ago | not rated yet | 0 |
A novel approach to obstructing the runaway inflammatory response implicated in some types of asthma has shown promise in a Phase IIa clinical trial, according to U. S. researchers.
2 hours ago | not rated yet | 0