The Cancer Engineering program is comprised of an integrated campus-wide team of cancer researchers, physicians and engineering experts that together develop solutions and technologies that lead to fundamental and clinical discoveries.
Shamsul Arafin, PhD – Electrical and Computer Engineering
Dr. Arafin has significant experiences on the design, fabrication and characterization of semiconductor infrared diode lasers, photonic ICs and the associated subsystems. His current research interests include the development of high-performance photonic devices, including infrared diode lasers spanning from deep-UV to long wavelength up to 6 µm, which are beneficial for emerging biomedical applications like cancer research. Infrared absorbance spectroscopy using tunable lasers is used as a nondestructive, label free, highly sensitive and specific analytical method for cancer research and diagnosis. Specially, the mid-infrared wavelength region is a fruitful area for medical research and instrumentation since this is the region where the most identifiable biological molecules absorb and radiate. Hence, the fingerprints of biological molecules can be detected with great precision and ppb level sensitivity. This is useful since several biomarkers needs to be detected very often in the medical field for different kinds of health conditions. With regard to tissue optics, mid-infrared spectral imaging is found to be a better regime compared with shorter wavelength light source. Given that long wavelength light suffer very little scattering as opposed to near-infrared light, mid-infrared wavelength region is expected to be penetrating even deeper into tissues, enabling high-performance novel optical sensors and cancer diagnostic tools.
Carlos Castro, PhD – Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
The collaboration between the research groups of Dr. Castro and Dr. John Byrd seeks to develop targeted nanoscale devices for cancer drug delivery using DNA nanostructures. DNA nanostructures enable the construction of a highly customizable drug delivery platform with precise control over nanodevice shape and functionalization. The DNA-based platform incorporates a large chemotherapeutic payload, therapeutic nucleic acids, and targeting antibody molecules against tumor cell specific antigens on a single nanodevice. In addition to molecular control, DNA origami nanodevices allow for tunable drug release rates and can be customized to different targets, scalable and bio-compatible, and therefore possess tremendous therapeutic potential. Their current research is focused on targeted drug delivery to AML cells and therapeutic anti-sense targeted delivery to AML and CLL cells.
Jeffrey Chalmers, PhD – Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
Dr. Chalmers is a member of the Translational Therapeutics Program at the OSUCCC – James, where his research aids in the development of fundamental understanding and applications of the interaction of hydrodynamic and magnetic forces and cells. It ranges from the establishment of mathematical relationships detailing physical phenomena to the development of simple, robust instruments to use in a clinical setting. Results of one of his recent studies indicate that miR-21 and miR-29a are necessary for pro-tumor functions of myeloid cells, and that the CSF1-ETS2 pathway upstream of the miRs acts as a therapeutic target to inhibit M2 remodeling of macrophages during malignancy.
Richard Fishel, PhD – Cancer Biology and Genetics
Dr. Fishel’s research interests includes DNA repair defects and genomic instability in cancer development, biophysical chemistry of DNA repair and single molecule imaging in vitro and in vivo. His laboratory studies the mechanisms, genetics, regulation and consequences of DNA repair and genome rearrangement in human cells. Dr. Fishel was one of the principle discoverers of the human mismatch repair genes and their role in hereditary and sporadic cancers. His research utilizes fundamental biophysical methods, genetic analysis and includes genome engineering of mutations/gene-fusions in human cells using CRISPR technologies. He has also developed mismatch repair defective mouse models of cancer to examine cancer development and cancer chemoprevention.
Daniel Gallego-Perez, PhD – Biomedical Engineering, General Surgery
Dr. Gallego-Perez's research is focused on engineering novel nanoscale tools for fundamental and translational/applied cancer research. His most recent work has been devoted to evaluating the dissemination patterns of cancer cells and other tumor-associated cells (e.g., immune cells) with single-cell resolution to identify specific cellular subpopulations (AKA new drug targets) responsible for driving disease onset and/or progression. In addition, he has also been working on nanoengineering next-generation gene and cell immunotherapies against cancer using technologies and principles adopted from regenerative medicine. This work has been conducted in close collaboration with faculty from the CCC (i.e., Dr. William E. Carson), and over the past two and a half years has led to several patent applications, as well as manuscript and grant submissions.
Ramesh Ganju, PhD – Computer Sciences and Engineering
The major focus of Dr. Ganju’s laboratory is to elucidate mechanisms that regulate tumor growth and metastasis (spread). His team is also developing immune-based therapies for solid tumors. Dr. Ganju and colleagues have identified signaling pathways that regulate tumor growth, chemo-invasion and metastasis of tumor cells, especially in breast cancer. In particular, his team has discovered several biomarkers and signaling molecules that regulate growth and metastasis of triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), including fatty acid binding protein 5 and transient receptor potential vanilloid type-2 (TRPV2). One of his recent projects indicated for the first time that TRPV2 could be a good prognostic marker for TNBC and estrogen receptor alpha-negative (ERa-) breast cancer patients, especially among patients who receive chemotherapy.
Samir Ghadiali, PhD – Biomedical Engineering, Internal Medicine
The Ghadiali lab uses a novel combination of biological, engineering and mathematical tools to elucidate the biomechanical and immunological mechanisms of cancer metastasis and progression. Cancer progression is often accompanied by changes in tumor biomechanical properties (i.e. stiffer tissue), and the lab has used biomimetic and bioengineering platforms to demonstrate that oncogenic signaling in breast, lung and prostate cancer cells results in specific changes in cancer cell mechanics which facilitates increased migration and dissemination. They have also identified a novel way to reverse the biomechanical changes that occur during oncogenic signaling and have shown that this reversal can be used to mitigate cancer progression. More recently, they are collaborating with investigators in the Department of Radiology to develop novel non-invasive imaging and computational methods that can characterize the biomechanical properties of pulmonary nodules. The lab's goal is to use these non-invasive techniques to establish a novel set of early biomechanical based biomarkers of lung cancer. Finally, they are also using bioengineered systems to investigate how changes in biostructural/biomechanical properties influence the trafficking of innate immune cells to the tumor and how the presence of these immune cells alters cancer cell migration/dissemination.
Peixuan Guo, PhD – Pharmacy and Medicine
Dr. Guo’s major research interest is to apply RNA nanotechnology for cancer therapy. His lab has developed multifunctional RNA nanoparticles harboring RNA aptamer, siRNA, anti-miRNA, drugs or ribozymes. RNA nanoparticles are envisioned to be a major breakthrough in cancer therapy as they are homogeneous in size and structure, thermodynamically and chemically stable, non-toxic, non-immunogenic and display favorable pharmacological profiles. After systemic injection, the RNA nanoparticles specifically targeted tumors with little or no accumulation in healthy organs. Ongoing projects include development of RNA nanoparticles for tumor specific delivery of therapeutics, image-guided drug delivery and cancer immunotherapy.
Derek Hansford, PhD – Biomedical Engineering
The Hansford lab focuses on the manipulation and fabrication of biomaterials and the micro- and nano-scale to produce devices and substrates that allow us to study physiological systems. They have applied these to studying cancer in terms of the cellular behaviors, cell populations and cultures, and extracellular vesicle (exosomes) capture and study. They have developed biomimetic surfaces to interrogate the migration behaviors of invasive cancer cells and applied it to the study of glioma stem cells to demonstrate that physical behaviors can be used as prognostic tools and for studying individual response to potential drugs. They extended these studies to look at the effects of the microstructure mechanical properties by fabricating micro tracks in soft gels, and have improved the system to make them easier to use in a clinical setting by integrating the micro tracks with microfluidic cell capture systems to precisely place cells at given starting points for studying their migration behaviors. In the lab's exosome microfluidic research, they have developed an affinity-based 3D flow microfluidic system to allow the selective capture of exosomes with biomarkers for specific cancers with a subsequent elution protocol that allows us to collect the unmodified exosomes for further biological research. With this system, they have demonstrated that the number of epithelial cancer-derived exosomes (EpCAM+) in patient serum is a valid indicator of the stage of cancer progression in patient samples. Their current and future work will explore the sensitivity and specificity of the affinity separations as well as performing biochemical analyses of the specific exosomes to determine potential biomarkers and drug targets for a given cancer and/or patient.
John Lannutti, PhD – Materials Science and Engineering, Biomedical Engineering
Dr. Lannutti's activities focus on the novel application of electrohydrodynamic processes for understanding and treating human disease. An example is the creation of highly engineered, drug-releasing capsules capable of delivering nucleotides that modify the genetic program of site-specific cells to avoid tumor initiation, progression and development of resistance to therapy. Microparticle generation leading to injectable modalities capable of modifying wound site behavior to avoid undesirable cell responses and promote appropriate healing constitutes another area of active research. Finally, biosensor activities involving the detection and quantification of oxygen and glucose in vivo is ongoing, sponsored by a consortium of government and industry funds. These include implantable, under-the-skin biosensors optically interrogated to provide real time feedback along with microparticle sensors that can map 3D hypoxia in vivo. These technologies are also being combined to exploit applications to organ-on-a-chip research enabling a more complete understanding of in vitro tissue/cellular development.
L. James Lee, PhD – Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
Most of Dr. Lee's current research is in cancer engineering. He uses nanobiotechnology to prepare biochips for extracellular vesicles-based cancer diagnosis and therapy. Three out of his four ongoing NIH grants are related to cancer engineering via collaboration with several OSUCCC physicians and cancer researchers outside of Ohio State.
Jennifer Leight, PhD – Biomedical Engineering
There is a need for new technologies that enable faster translation of discoveries made at the bench to successful treatment of human disease. Screening of cancer therapeutics is often performed using isolated cancer cells cultured on plastic dishes – conditions that do not capture critical aspects of living tissue that control tumor cell function and response to treatment. To address this need, the Leight lab in collaboration with clinicians Dr. Clara Lee, Dr. Daniel Stover and Dr. Gary Tozbikian are developing technologies which maintain human breast tumor tissue in three-dimensional hydrogels to mimic human disease while simultaneously providing outputs of cell function quickly and easily. Applications for this research include screening of new cancer therapeutics and personalized medicine. This work was funded by a Pelotonia Idea Grant in 2018. This technology is also being adapted for new drug delivery systems to treat liposarcoma in collaboration with Dr. Raphael Pollock.
David McComb, PhD – Center for Electron Microscopy and Analysis
The Center for Electron Microscopy and Analysis (CEMAS) is a centralized, coordinated imaging facility where traditional boundaries between disciplines are eliminated. With over $39M in equipment, CEMAS has one of the largest concentrations of electron and ion beam analytical microscopy instruments in any North American institution. Imaging and analytical facilities are complemented by extensive sample preparation facilities and supported by a highly skilled staff with expertise in all aspects of electron microscopy. Recent investments in cryogenic-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) have been made to enable techniques such as single particle analysis, cryo-electron tomography and micro-electron diffraction to support structural and cellular biology imaging for cancer and other biomedical research. We are collaborating with researchers in the Colleges of Medicine, Pharmacy, Veterinary Medicine, Arts & Sciences and Engineering, as well as the OSUCCC to advance their goals.
Wayne Miles, PhD – Molecular Genetics
Dr. Miles' research seeks to identify mechanisms that enable cancer cells to overcome cellular stresses associated with oncogenic growth. In particular, he is focused on how the loss of the retinoblastoma 1 (pRB) tumor suppressor changes the transcriptome and proteome of cancer cells. One of his recent studies identified a previously unknown additional tier of post-transcriptional regulation that constrains E2F levels and the transcriptional program up-regulated by pRB loss.
Niru K. Nahar, PhD – Electrical and Computer Engineering
Dr. Nahar investigates the potential of terahertz spectroscopic imaging for assessment of malignant tissues in human lung and small intestine using a reflection-mode, time-domain spectroscopy system spanning the 60 GHz–2 THz band. These two tissue groups are among the few that can be reached via an endoscopic sensor, thus potentially allowing for in situ assessment of suspected tumors. As an initial study toward this goal, He characterized formalin-fixed and paraffin-embedded tissue blocks using a commercially-available reflection-mode time domain spectroscopy system. He verifies that the measured THz responses of these tissue groups reveal key differences in their morphology, material density, and electrical properties. The spectroscopic characteristics in the THz band are contrasted with the histopathologic assessment of hematoxylin and eosin stained tissue slices to demonstrate the potential of THz spectroscopy for evaluating lung and small intestine malignancies. For both types of organ tissues, it is demonstrated that the THz images provide key discriminatory information such as tissue morphology, cancer margin and necrotic areas in the tumor. This research was supported in part by Samsung Electronics Inc. under the Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology (SAIT) Global Research Outreach (GRO) Program. Also, he collaborated with the Ohio State medical center for the research. Currently, Dr. Nahar and Dr. Kubilay Sertel are working on high resolution polarimetric THz imaging for biomedical applications (e.g. detection of Alzheimer disease and cancer) research funded by NSF.
Andre Palmer, PhD – Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
Palmer lab develops hemoglobin-based oxygen carriers that can make chemotherapies more effective in treating triple negative breast cancer. One challenge in treating triple negative breast cancer tumors is hypoxia within the core of the tumor. Under these conditions, the cancer cells become resistant to many of the chemotherapies with a response rate of only 20%. Thus, they urgently need new methods to increase the effectiveness of these chemotherapies. In the lab, they develop bioengineered hemoglobin-based oxygen carriers that are capable of delivering oxygen to the tumor under hypoxic conditions. The design of these materials are guided by sophisticated simulations of the oxygen and fluid transport within the tumor tissue. The resulting materials are able to decrease hypoxia, reduce tumor growth, and increase the effectives of chemotherapies.
Raphael Pollock, MD, PhD – Surgical Oncology
Dr. Pollock's research focuses on the molecular drivers underlying soft tissue sarcoma, a cancer of connective tissues that occurs throughout the body. His current studies include the role of MDM2 in dedifferentiated liposcaroma, circulating miRNA in soft tissue sarcoma and genetic determinants of desmoid tumor progression. These investigations are supported by a comprehensive soft tissue tumor acquisition program in collaboration with Hans Iwenofu, MD, of the Department of Pathology and Thomas Scharschmidt, MD, and Joel Mayerson, MD, of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. The retrieved tissues are used to create cell lines and cell strains. These tissues are also implanted in vivo to establish small animal models that support preclinical therapy investigations.
Shaurya Prakash, PhD – Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
Dr. Prakash's project alongside Dr. Raphael Pollock is focused on developing new diagnostic technologies using innovative microfluidic and nanofluidic devices for cancer detection. Specifically, their handheld, chip-scale device aims to isolate, capture and purify extracellular vesicles for analysis of their molecular cargo. The molecular cargo within these vesicles can be a potent biomarker for cancer diagnostics and presents a new forefront in early detection of cancer and monitoring progress with treatments. As a first step, they have chosen the rare and difficult to treat cancer sarcoma for their system but expect to expand the utility of this technology to other cancers. Additionally, Dr. Prakash and other members of the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering department have been collaborating with researchers at the OSUCCC – James for several years to develop innovative instrumentation for electromagnetic detection of surgical margins. The purpose of these instruments is to provide new tools for real-time determination of surgical margins during resection of solid tumors from tissues. The research has led to multiple collaborative publications.
Eduardo Reategui, PhD – Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
Dr. Reategui's research group focuses on the development of microtechnologies, biomaterials and molecular-imaging methods for high-throughput sorting and molecular profiling of circulating cancer biomarkers. Their work primarily centers on circulating tumor cells (CTCs) and tumor-specific extracellular vesicles (EVs). CTCs are extremely rare cells shed from the primary tumor and metastatic sites and can be found at very low frequencies in the peripheral blood of cancer patients. Additionally, individual tumor cells release EVs which are tiny particles that carry proteins, RNA, and DNA resembling their tumor cell of origin. Overall, through microfluidic isolation of CTCs and EVs, their long-term goal is to develop clinically relevant devices that provide complementary data to help better guide patient diagnosis and treatment.
Matthew Ringel, MD – Internal Medicine
Dr. Ringel is a translational researcher with a clinical practice and laboratory emphasizing thyroid cancer. His laboratory is focused on mechanisms of cancer progression, regulation of metastasis and therapeutic resistance in thyroid cancer and other solid tumors. He collaborates with engineers and other physical scientists in exosome biology and also in three-dimensional modeling of cancer progression using tissue scaffolds with a focus on developing ex vivo systems to model cancer invasion using complex model systems.
Gina Sizemore, PhD – Radiation Oncology
Research in the Sizemore lab integrates in vitro and in vivo modeling of the brain metastatic tumor microenvironment (TME) to provide mechanistic insight into how the brain metastatic TME contributes to breast cancer metastatic progression. Current studies aim to elucidate whether platelet derived growth factor receptor-beta (PDGFRß) signaling is a promising pathway for diagnostic and/or therapeutic purposes for metastatic breast cancer patients.
Aleksander Skardal, PhD – Biomedical Engineering
Dr. Skardal’s research program leverages development and implementation of extracellular matrix-based biomaterials and 3D biofabrication technologies (hydrogel bioinks and 3D bioprinting) to create bioengineered tissue and tumor models such as organoids, tissue chips and tumor-on-a-chip systems. These platforms are deployed broadly a variety of applications ranging from basic cell biology studies, disease models and drug and toxicity screens. In recent years, the team has focused these efforts towards 1) microfluidics-supported in vitro metastasis models (metastasis-on-a-chip), 2) neural models, including glioblastoma organoids and development of a neurovascular unit with a functional blood brain barrier, and 3) generation of patient-derived tumor organoids and tumor-on-a-chip models for personalized in vitro chemotherapy and immunotherapy screening to improve precision oncology efforts.
Carolyn Sommerich, PhD – Integrated Systems Engineering
Dr. Sommerich's team recently completed the funded period (two years) of a project that has a goal of providing enhanced ergonomics and mindfulness yoga training to radiation therapy students (and radiography students) at The Ohio State University and Kent State University. As cancer care workers, radiation therapists are subject to burnout, and as healthcare workers who perform patient handling activities, they are subject to overexertion injuries. The enhanced training the students received is anticipated to improve their resiliency and foster a champion mindset in them with regards to requesting and using engineering controls to reduce their exposures to risk factors for musculoskeletal injury in their work environment. (Funding: Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation; Kevin Evans, PI).
Jonathan Song, PhD – Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
Dr. Song directs the Microsystems for Mechanobiology and Medicine Laboratory, which applies microtechnology, principles from tissue engineering and quantitative engineering analysis for studying physical dynamics of tumor and vascular biology. He is also a member of the Molecular Biology and Cancer Genetics Program at the The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – James. Song uses microscale engineering technology to reconstitute the microarchitecture of living tissue in vitro to investigate how tumor microenvironment components regulate angiogenesis and metastasis. He also seeks to deploy engineered microsystems for large scale, high-throughput platforms for pre-clinical screening of multi-target anti-angiogenesis therapy.
Vish Subramaniam, PhD – Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
The focus of Dr. Subramaniam's research is on interactions between low frequency (< 1 MHz) electromagnetic waves and tissues and cells. This research ranges from fundamental studies to pre-clinical applications. Research on electrostatic interactions governing cell migration, cell signaling and activity of select enzymes is used to develop new methods for detecting and imaging solid tumors, for devising means of controlling metastasis, for accelerating wound healing and mitigating antibiotic resistant bacterial biofilms. Specifically relevant to cancer research, binding of ligands (e.g. CXCL12), growth factors (EGF) and corresponding receptors (CXCR4 and EGFR) and subsequent downstream intracellular signaling are manipulated using weak induced electric fields to affect cell migration. Current research projects include studies on the mechanisms of interaction between weak (less than 100 microVolts per cm) electric fields and intracellular signaling in cancer cells in the presence of growth factors and chemokines, development of electroceutical dressings for accelerating wound healing and remediating antibiotic-resistant bacterial biofilms and development of a novel nano-heterolayered electrode material for photoelectochemical regeneration of cofactors (NAD(P)H) from NAD(P)+ with implications for metabolic processes in animal and plant cells. I am also a member of the Molecular Biology and Cancer Genetics (MBCG) program at the OSUCCC – James.
Seth Weinberg, PhD – Biomedical Engineering, Davis Heart and Lung Research Institute
The Weinberg lab is focused on developing multiscale computational models of physiological systems. One primary focus area is modeling mechanical and chemical signaling between and within tumor cells that occurs during cancer metastasis. Specifically, they are interested in the epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and associated loss of cell-cell adhesions that is implicated as a critical step in tumor progression. They are developing predictive models of the feedback between cell-cell and cell traction mechanical forces, intracellular signaling pathways, extracellular matrix remodeling and secreted cytokines with the goal of testing possible mechanisms and interventions to revert or suppress tumor progression.
Jessica Winter, PhD – Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Biomedical Engineering
Dr. Winter has several projects in the cancer field through her extensive collaborations with The James and the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center. Her research develops new imaging agents for cancer diagnostics, including support of personalized medicine approaches. In addition, her group develops materials systems for researching migration of invasion of glioblastoma brain tumors. Dr. Winter has commercialized some of her materials through Core Quantum Technologies (CQT), an Ohio State University Technology Commercialization Company. CQT is developing reagents for leukemia and lymphoma detection based on nanoparticles. She has received several accolades for her work in the cancer field, including a feature on the 2016 cover of Cancer Today, published by the American Association of Cancer Researchers, and is actively involved with Ohio State's Pelotonia program. Dr. Winter is also a breast cancer survivor who received all of her treatment at The James and The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
Ronald Xu, PhD – Biomedical Engineering
Dr. Xu is an expert at medical device design, microfabrication and biomedical optical imaging. His current research interests include surgical navigation, microencapsulation and rapid prototyping. In terms of surgical navigation, he has explored various optical imaging tools for cancer detection and guided surgical resection. In terms of microencapsulation, he has encapsulated therapeutic payloads and imaging agents in multifunctional micro and nanoparticles for sustained release and stimulated delivery of anti-cancer therapies. In terms of rapid prototyping, he has integrated multiple 3D printing modules to produce tissue-simulating phantoms for medical device calibration and surgical planning.
Shang-Tian Yang, PhD – Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
Dr. Yang's group has been working on stem cell and cancer cell engineering for studying/screening potential cancer drugs in a bioreactor. They are also developing a 3D tumor model for cancer drug evaluation.
Kristine Yoder, PhD – Cancer Biology and Genetics
Integration of the retroviral genome into a host chromosome is an essential part of the viral life cycle. However, our understanding of integration mechanics is incomplete. A major goal for the use of retroviruses as gene therapy vectors is targeted integration. Yet the mechanism of retroviral integrase searching target DNA for an integration site are unknown. We are using single molecule microscopy, biochemistry, and cellular assays to investigate the dynamics of integration complexes from a variety of retroviruses. This information is fundamental to determining the degree to which integration may be targeted and identifying an effective targeting strategy.
Other team members include: