Terasaki Institute for Biomedical Innovation Awarded NIH Grant to Develop Precision Drug Delivery to Cancer Cells

April 26, 2021

Methods allow for localized, controlled and sustained delivery of chemo and immunotherapeutic drugs

(LOS ANGELES) – The National Institutes of Health has awarded a $2.5 million grant to the Terasaki Institute for Biomedical Innovation (TIBI). The grant will be used to develop innovative drug delivery methods to treat liver cancer. TIBI, a leader in the field of bioengineering and personalized healthcare solutions, will draw upon their extensive experience with biomaterials to create more effective ways to target and destroy tumor cells.

Worldwide, cancer is among the leading causes of death. In the United States, it accounts for one in four deaths, exceeding half a million annually. Among those cancer-related deaths, liver cancer ranks sixth, and its occurrence has risen 4% in the last ten years. In addition, liver cancer has a five-year survival rate of only 9% for regional types and 3% for metastatic forms. In some cases, liver tumors may be surgically removed, but this is not always possible. Liver transplantation is presently the best hope for patients, but there is a huge shortage of suitable donor livers available.

Outside of transplantation, the current gold standard for treating liver cancer patients is with systemic chemotherapy. However, this method has significant shortfalls. Systemic chemotherapy does not specifically and quantitatively deliver anti-cancer drugs precisely to the liver tumors. Moreover, this method often results in toxicity to the non-cancerous liver tissue surrounding the tumors, as well as systemic side effects which cause great pain and discomfort to the patient.

Another method, commonly used to treat hepatitis patients who develop liver cancer, is trans-arterial chemoembolization, or TACE. In this technique, small particles are delivered through a catheter into an artery that is directly supplying a tumor. The particles block the artery and restrict tumor growth. Concurrently, the particles may serve as anti-cancer drug delivery vehicles which precisely target the tumor cells; the restricted blood flow caused by the vessel blockage also serves to concentrate the drug around the tumor.

The addition of chemotherapeutic drugs to the tumor site may not be enough, however, to destroy malignant tumor growth. These types of tumors exhibit unrestricted growth because they have found ways to suppress the body’s normal immune response system. Immunotherapeutic drugs can reverse this suppression and reinstate the body’s natural immune defenses to destroy tumor cells and inhibit their growth.

The TIBI researchers’ work will fully address the challenges involved in liver cancer treatment. They will develop an improved TACE method for more effective, controllable, and sustained drug delivery, as well as embolization of tumor cell vasculature. And the combinatory effects of using both chemo and immunotherapeutic drugs to destroy the tumor cells will take full advantage of the improved TACE procedure.

“Our proposed methods represent a groundbreaking advance in the field of liver cancer treatment,” said Dr. Khademhosseini. “It has the potential for generalization to many other types of cancer where localized embolization and drug delivery are required.”

A recap of Dr. Waterman’s participation at the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine’s “A Fairer and More Equitable, Cost-Effective, and Transparent System of Donor Organ Procurement, Allocation, and Distribution” webinar

By Erica Ho, Senior Research & Education Associate

April 16, 2021

On Friday April 16, Dr. Amy Waterman spoke at the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine’s virtual public webinar, “A Fairer and More Equitable, Cost-Effective, and Transparent System of Donor Organ Procurement, Allocation, and Distribution”. This webinar was held to educate the public on two important aspects of the current state of deceased donor organ transplantation in the country. The morning session comprised of medical leaders from around the world sharing their own countries’ experiences with navigating fair and timely organ transplantation processes. Learning about these different approaches from other countries will undoubtedly help the United States devise new policies and methods to improve its own organ procurement and distribution systems. Dr. Waterman was a guest speaker in the second half of the webinar as part of a panel of experts in identifying and mitigating inequalities patients face during the referral, evaluation, and waitlisting stages of their deceased donor organ transplant journey.

Graphene Quantum Dots for Medical Imaging

April 14, 2021

(LOS ANGELES) – Quantum dot technology is a subject of interest for big television manufacturers, who are incorporating this technology into building their liquid crystal display (LCD) televisions.  Quantum dots are tiny nanocrystals which have a special power: when exposed to light, they become luminous and give off a very pure and precise color depending on their size.  The desired color can be fine-tuned by adjustment of the quantum dot’s size; using the dots in an LCD television enhances the colors on the screen and results in a better picture.  Quantum dot technology can also be used in other ways, such as in solar panels and for medical uses.

Improving the Health of our Hearts

March 16, 2021

(LOS ANGELES) – Every year, about 805,000 Americans have a heart attack and of these about 1 in 5 is a silent heart attack where the person is not even aware of it. During a heart attack, there is a period in which the heart is without a sufficient supply of oxygen.  As a result, there may be damage to some cardiac tissues.  Following the event, there may be enough damage in the heart to show long-term symptoms as chest pains, arrhythmia and a weakened ability of the heart to pump blood.  In severe cases, there may be significant blood pressure changes or the heart can fail completely. 

Multicellular Liver-on-a-Chip For Modeling Fatty Liver Disease

March 11, 2021

(LOS ANGELES) – Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the most prevalent chronic liver disease worldwide. It is found in 30% of people in developed countries and occurs in approximately 25% of people in the United States. Risk factors for the disease include obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol and poor eating habits, although this does not exclude individuals without these risk factors.

Low-Voltage, Low-Power Pressure Sensors For Monitoring Health

March 8, 2021

(LOS ANGELES) – Recent advances in technology have opened many possibilities for using wearable and implantable sensors to monitor various indicators of patient health. Wearable pressure sensors are designed to respond to very small changes in bodily pressure, so that physical functions such as pulse rate, blood pressure, breathing rates and even subtle changes in vocal cord vibrations can be monitored in real time with a high degree of sensitivity.

Terasaki Institute for Biomedical Innovation Encourages People to Become Living Kidney Donors With PSA Airing on CBS

March 8, 2021

(Los Angeles) — Terasaki Institute for Biomedical Innovation has joined the OneLegacy Foundation and other like-minded organizations from around the country to help create an important public service announcement and website encouraging people to consider being a living kidney donor. The #BeLikeGina campaign launches this week in conjunction with National Kidney Month and is connected to CBS’s highly-acclaimed BPositive program.

Microneedle Patches For Microdosing Psychedelic Pharmaceuticals

February 22, 2021

(LOS ANGELES) – Although one may think of psychedelic pharmaceuticals as being dangerous and detrimental, scientists have been conducting experiments and clinical trials on some of them and have obtained positive results when testing them for medical use. Research has shown that drugs such as MDMA (a type of methamphetamine), LSD and psilocybin (“magic mushrooms”) can be of benefit in treating severe pain, anxiety, depression and certain mental illnesses. Successful outcomes have been achieved when using psychedelics for treating conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder and addictions to alcohol and smoking, for example. In many cases, these treatments have benefited individuals who had unsuccessfully tried to treat their conditions by other methods.