Significant progress in human cancer therapy in the last decade has been driven by conceptionally new approaches to targeting cancer, including cancer immunotherapy, cancer nanotherapy, or new types of biologics and small molecules. Both my dissertation and postdoc research will be focused on the development of fundamentally new approaches to targeting cancer. My dissertation research is focused on the development of photoswitchable lipids for the optical control of lipid metabolism and function. In addition to targeting specific receptors, ion-channels, or enzymes, light-induced structural changes in a lipid nanoparticle (LNP) could serve as trigger for the release of encapsulated drugs. Triggered release could markedly improve the efficacy of clinically approved LNP-based cancer therapeutics, which include Doxil/Caelyx, DaunoXome, Myocet, Lipo-Dox, or Marqibo. I seek to design and synthesize photoswitchable lipids for `photoactivable lipid nanoparticles', herein termed paLNPs, that allow for effective light- triggered release of encapsulated cancer drugs. Two complementary approaches will be developed for small molecule drugs and RNA-based therapeutics and the pharmacological properties of paLNPs will be systematically investigated in vitro and in cell culture. In my postdoctoral research I seek to use my acquired knowledge in chemistry, lipid-biology, and medicine to develop lipid-drug conjugates for biological targets that function at plasma-membrane signaling hotspots. The initial target will be the mutated oncogene KRAS G12C, which is ideally suited for this new approach. Conjugating selective covalent modifier of this oncogene with a lipid will attach an additional lipid tail to the surface of KRAS that could largely alter its membrane-protein interaction and in the best case completely inhibit its function. This could markedly increase the efficacy of the covalent pharmacophores currently in clinical trials. I seek to synthesize and systematically study these lipid-drug conjugates in vitro and in cell culture.
The goal of this proposal is the development of fundamentally new and more effective approaches to cancer therapy that could complement existing therapies. This includes the development of photoswitchable lipids for lipid nanoparticle systems that allow for light-triggered release of small molecule drugs and RNA therapeutics and Lipid-Drug conjugates for the challenging Oncogene KRAS G12C.