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Research Topics

Our lab focuses primarily on cancer research, typically breast cancer. Some of the topics that we work on include:

  • Developing 3D tissue engineered platforms

  • Characterizing injectable drug delivery and theranostic systems

  • Studying the effect of cell and ECM heterogeneity on cancer progression


Developing 3D Tissue Engineered Platforms


The TMET Lab engineers physiologically-relevant in vitro platforms, scaffolding, and other devices to investigate key cellular events, improve regeneration, or perform precision medicine tests clinically. 


Some of our models include:


  • A micro-actuating lung model

  • A pre-metastatic niche and wound healing mimetic

  • Mandible scaffolding for bone regeneration

  • A detailed analysis of collagen I mechanical properties and microarchitecture under various gelation conditions

  • A tumbling robot for precise movement of payload in patients


These platforms use a variety of matrices, including collagen I, fibronectin, hyaluronic acid, and basement membrane, as well as cell types to study or improve patient outcomes related to regenerative medicine and cancer progression.

Characterizing Injectable Drug Delivery and Theranostic Systems

Drug resistance and systemic therapies lower a patient’s quality of life during treatment. Local drug delivery systems are an appealing method to overcome the dose limiting toxicity of systemic treatment because they deliver elevated concentrations of drug directly at the tumor site. 


The TMET Lab engineers products for injectable drug delivery and theranostics to minimize the need for systemic cancer therapies. 


Some of our current projects include:


  • In situ forming implants. These are solutions that form a solid drug-eluting implant when injected at the tumor site. Implant structure and drug release can be noninvasively characterized using diffusion-weighted MRI. 

  • Echogenic nanoparticles, both synthetically and biologically derived, that can be administered as an ultrasound contrast agent. These particles have increased tissue penetration and potential organotropic tendencies. 

  • Formulations for narcotics which inhibit abusive off-label smoking uses


Studying the Effect of Cell and ECM Heterogeneity on Cancer Progression

The tumor microenvironment is a complex milieu of cells, extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins, and soluble signaling factors that drive phenotypic changes in cancer cells. Using our developed in vitro platforms, we can study how microenvironmental elements act individually and in concert to drive cancer cell responses, including migration, proliferation, and dormancy. 


Some of our current projects include:


  • Identifying interactions among epithelial and mesenchymal tumor fractions

  • Understanding how ECM and mechanical changes in the (pre)metastatic niche fuel metastatic cell dormancy and reactivation

  • Understanding and exploiting extracellular vesicles in long-range cancer-stromal communication

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