The American Cancer Society: Creating Hope in the Lab


The American Cancer Society has a
mission of finding researchers at the early stage in their career. It’s
during this time where it’s very difficult to get grants from the
National funding agencies because you have to have a great deal
preliminary data before they’re willing to support that work. This is the microfluidic chips that I
developed well I was funded under the American Cancer Society. What this chip does is it isolates
circulating tumor cells or rare cells that are in the blood that circulate around when a person has
cancer and the way that the chip works you simply have blood go into port and then exit to the other
port. The cancer cells stay behind and all the unwanted cells like red
blood cells and platelets go out. We can get the genetic fingerprints
where the tumor types from the cells that are captured on the chip. We would like to come up with a liquid
biopsy that would replace the surgical biopsy for a diagnosis of cancer. The idea would be
that you would go to your doctor’s office, you would have a simple blood draw and then
from that blood we would analyze it using a microfluidic device and identify any cancer cells that are
circulating around you. While I was getting my PhD in mechanical
engineering my stepmother was diagnosed with stage
three breast cancer. It was something that was devastating to
the whole family. And also seeing various extensive chemotherapies that were subscribed to her and then finding out that some of them weren’t actually working in that her cancer grew during the time that she was on this medication. This motivated me when I was doing my
postdoctoral research to switch my focus to cancer research. So
one of my hopes with the circulating tumor cells chip is that when patients go through their
treatments they get answers quickly. They don’t have to wait six to eight weeks to find out the
chemotherapy that they were on wasn’t working. And those patients live longer happier
lives to celebrate as many birthdays as they can. When I participate in American Cancer
Society events like Relay for Life and I see the survivors lap. Those are things
that really motivate me to come back work longer hours, harder in the lab, more
weekends because I really want to figure out a way that my son that he
thinks the cancer is something that is now manageable or hopefully a distant memory for
things that people have to do So when my friends ask me what can they
do to help cancer researcher or when I send
out a request when I’m participating in a Relay or a breast cancer walk I say to them
that please come and join my team walk with us help fundraise but for some
people in these economic times that can also be challenging you don’t always have spare money that you
can donate but volunteer at these events. So whatever you can do whatever time
that you can spare it’s greatly appreciated by researchers
and all the patients that are recipients at the great advances they are able to
make.

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