Research

Our primary research interest revolves around the application of engineering principles for promoting human health. Of particular interest to us is the ever expanding field of design, synthesis and application of novel biomaterials for drug, gene and cell delivery. We are also interested in developing new approaches using stem cells and biomaterials for tissue regeneration and repair. The fundamental questions driving our research is: how to treat prostate and breast cancer using polymeric nanomedicines. To achieve this, our research has three highly focused aims: First, to develop a therapeutic approach; second, to create novel biomaterials for drug and gene delivery and third, to utilize NanoBio Technology to facilitate therapy.

Cancer Therapeutics

Breast and prostate cancer are the second leading cause of cancer mortality in women and men in the United States, respectively. Our group investigates novel therapeutic approaches for treating these diseases. Specifically, our efforts are centered on utilizing a combination therapy approach to target pivotal pathways involved in breast and prostate cancer. We explore both small molecule and nucleic acids as therapeutic agents. For example, we are studying combination therapies for treating triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) using EGFR and hedghog small molecule inhibitors. We are also investigating the effect of simulataneously targeting the androgen receptor and antiapoptotic gene on prostate cancer. Following proof of concept, we employ nanotechnology to enhance the overall efficacy of identified therapeutic agents by improving drug solubility, stability and tumor site-specificity. 

Biomaterials and NanoBiotechnology

Our group develops novel biodegradable polymers for small molecule and nucleic acid delivery. We use a computational material science approach to design a series of polymers possessing varying composition of polyesters and polycarbonates tailored to the chemical and physical properties of the therapeutic agent. Subsequently, we synthesize and characterize a library of polymers exhibiting different chemical and physical features and examine the effect of these variations on drug loading, release kinetics and biological effectiveness. Specifically, we use a computational modeling approach to tailor the hydrophobic core of micelles using lactic-acid and carbonate- based polymers (poly (ethylene glycol)-b-poly(carbonate-co-lactide) [PEG-b-P(CB-co-LA)]) to improve drug loading of small molecules and nucleic acids. These materials are designed to be non-immunogenic, non-toxic, site-specific and to exhibit enhances thermodynamic  and kinetic stability.