Massey researcher receives $2 million grant to improve melanoma treatment
Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Massey Cancer Center researcher Jason Reed, Ph.D., has been awarded a roughly $2 million grant with a collaborator at the University of California, Los Angeles, to develop a new method to rapidly determine how a cancerous tumor responds to a battery of candidate therapies and then to pick the agents that are most effective for treating the patient’s particular disease.
Reed, assistant professor in the Department of Physics in VCU’s College of Humanities and Sciences, and UCLA’s Michael Teitell, M.D., Ph.D., received the four-year grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) at the National Institutes of Health. Approximately $1 million of the grant will go to research conducted at VCU.
The researchers received the grant to find an answer to one of the NCI’s key priorities: “Since current methods to predict the efficacy or toxicity of new drug candidates in humans are often inaccurate, can we develop new methods to test potential therapeutic agents that yield better predictions of response?”
Reed and Teitell proposed to develop a new, rapid, high-throughput, real-time, generic drug response quantifier, called Live Cell Interferometry (LCI), on an open platform configuration to handle issues of tissue and growth heterogeneity that typically accompany all tumor types.
LCI, Reed said, will determine therapeutic sensitivity of melanoma cells by tracking single cell biomass changes (growth and wasting) over time, before and after drug exposure, to avoid confounding artifacts of current, static, snapshot-in-time therapy selection methods.
He added that it will directly address key challenges such as mortality associated with metastasis, identifying hard to treat versus relatively indolent tumors, identifying hard to treat versus relatively indolent tumors, tailoring therapies to improve efficacy, reducing toxicity and uncovering new growth and metastasis mechanisms.