The objective of this collaborative research award is to improve the delivery of chemotherapy drugs to its target tumors. With existing chemotherapy, it is estimated that less than 0.1 percent of the administered drugs are taken up by the tumor, the remaining 99.9 percent go to healthy tissue and cause severe and life-threatening side-effects. In magnetic drug targeting, chemotherapy can be attached to biocompatible magnetic particles. This allows magnetic control of the drugs - magnets placed outside the patient can potentially be used to focus the therapy to tumors. Doing so is difficult. The human body is complex and it is not yet understood how to actuate the magnets (when to turn them on and off) to best direct the drugs to the tumors. The goal of this project is to develop sophisticated and experimentally-validated tools to better understand how magnetized chemotherapy moves through the body, and based on these to develop methods to optimally actuate the magnets to better direct the chemotherapy to tumors.
If successful, the broader impact will be a suite of techniques to improve magnetic drug targeting - potentially moving it from a method that could only focus drugs to single shallow tumors, to one that could access deep tumors as well as small and poorly vascularized metastatic tumors spread throughout the body. This project is a collaborative effort between cancer clinicians, engineers, and mathematicians, and will also serve to bring these fields closer together in major part by training students to work effectively at the intersection of these three areas. High school, undergraduate, and graduate students will be involved in the research, and will interact with doctors, engineers, and mathematicians on a weekly basis.