New drugs are being developed to attack GBM, but the Atlanta-based researchers decided to take a more engineering approach. Anjana Jain, who is the first author of this GBM study, is now an assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts. As a Georgia Tech graduate student, Jain worked on biomaterials for spinal cord regeneration. Then, as a postdoctoral fellow in the Bellamkonda lab, she saw the opportunity to apply her graduate work to develop potential new treatment modalities for GBM.
"The signaling pathways we were trying to activate to repair the spinal cord were the same pathways researchers would like to inactivate for glioblastomas," said Jain. "Moving into cancer applications was a natural progression, one that held great interest because of the human toll of the disease."
Tumor cells typically invade healthy tissue by secreting enzymes that allow the invasion to take place, she explained. That activity requires a significant amount of energy from the cancer cells.
"Our idea was to give the tumor cells a path of least resistance, one that resembles the natural structures in the brain, but is attractive because it does not require the cancer cells to expend any more energy," she explained.
Experimentally, the researchers created fibers made from polycaprolactone (PCL) polymer surrounded by a polyurethane carrier. The fibers, whose surface simulates the contours of nerves and blood vessels that the cancer cells normally follow, were implanted into the brains of rats in which a human GBM tumor was growing. The fibers, just half the diameter of a human hair, served as tumor guides, leadin
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Georgia Institute of Technology