UConn researchers tackle which chemo treatment is best for cancer patients


FARMINGTON, Conn. (WTNH) – When it comes to cancer, trying to figure out at the onset which chemotherapy works best for the patient, can be challenging.

“When we heard about this challenge in chemotherapy and the way cancer patients are treated, we used our background and knowledge of biomedical engineering, bio-materials, tissue engineering to create this platform to help save lives,” says UConn Engineering PhD student Lela Daneshmandi.

Fellow UConn Engineering PhD student Armin Rad and Daneshmandi say saving lives can come down to precious time.

Rad says, “If the drug is not working, which in a lot of cases it doesn’t, the tumor is progressing and the patient is under a lot of unnecessary pain.”

Genetics play a role.

“The main problem in cancer therapy,” says Rad, “Is coming from the variation among the people. People are different in terms of the type of genetics they have, the type of mutation that happens inside the tumor.

So to help cancer specialists make the best decision at the beginning of the process — they’ve come up with technology to determine the most effective treatment.

The process begins with a doctor sending in a patient’s tumor cells, which are then grown and tested for different types of treatments.

“Our earlier studies showed that there really is a difference between the different drugs that a cancer cell is exposed to and even different doses may affect it. We can modulate the dose, the type of cancer, we an even use a combination of different drugs to see if that can potentially kill highly aggressive forms of cancer.”

Lela Daneshmandi, Engineering PhD student at UConn

They’ve teamed up with oncologist Dr. Omar Ibrahim at U-Conn Health for the clinical testing phase.

The focus is on lung cancer.

“The sooner we can start treating, lung cancer in particular, but all cancers in general, a patient’s prognosis improves,” says Dr. Ibrahim, emphasizing what’s being done here could be a game changer.

He explains, “Now we’re not guessing or assuming the medication will work. Now we’ll know the medication will work.”

They’ve named the company “Encapsulate.”

The technology should hit the market in two to three years.

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