With over 10 million new cases per year, cancer is among the most threatening diseases in the world. A major breakthrough in cancer treatment, however, would rapidly take place if more efficient tests for the rapid, low-cost detection of tumors would be developed and if more efficient treatments, with fewer secondary effects on the patient would be made available. In the next four years, my lab proposes to develop new inexpensive and efficient tools for tumor detection and imaging, as well as inexpensive home-meters for monitoring and optimizing chemotherapies. In addition, we will also conceive new nanomachines for the smart delivery of chemotherapeutic drugs in the vicinity of tumors, which should greatly enhance the efficiency of drugs while lowering their secondary effects.
The inspiration behind these innovations is derived from nature, which has successfully used molecular switches for million years to efficiently detect and signal the presence of various molecular targets as well as to deliver specific molecules in the vicinity of different cell types. Using similar artificially engineered DNA nanoswitches, we will demonstrate that we can achieve tumor detection and imaging with much higher sensitivities than currently employed approaches. Similarly, engineered DNA nanoswitches will also be adapted in inexpensive, and easy-to-use chemotherapeutic-drug home-meters that will allow patients to optimize the concentration of drugs in their blood, thus maximizing the success rate of their chemotherapy.
Finally, we will also mimic nature's drug delivery nanomachines and build new artificial molecular machines for the smart delivery of chemotherapeutic drugs to tumor cells. These various tools, inspired by nature, should provide a major breakthrough in cancer treatments and drastically increase survival rate.