Fighting cancer with chemical engineering
Dr. Ankit Mehta from the University of Illinois at Chicago was featured as a “20 under 40” researcher in SpineLine. He has a chemical engineering background and earned his MD with the Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology program.
With a specialization in spine care, Mehta was concerned about the dire outcomes of patients with spinal cord associated tumors. Given Mehta’s background, how could he incorporate chemical engineering to fight cancer? The answer required thinking outside of the box.
“Chemical engineering mirrors neurosurgery in many ways. You use basic principles of physics and chemistry to solve real-world problems,” Mehta said.
In a rat intramedullary spinal cord tumor model, his lab used magnetically targeted nanoparticles to bypass the blood-brain barrier. This barrier is a known hindrance to oral and intravenous chemotherapies. Using this technology, Mehta was able to successfully deliver the chemotherapy directly to the tumor and trigger cell death. This proof of concept study was published recently in Nature Scientific Reports.
With the success of that study, his lab is currently researching the efficacy and toxicity in this rat model. As this chemical engineering improves, Mehta hopes that more patients will have access to personalized medicine to reduce complications and improve their outcomes.