Texas Tech University awarded CPRIT grant to develop microchip method for studying exosomes

The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas awarded 28 grants through its academic research program, 11 grants through its prevention program and two grants through its product development research program.

Totaling approximately $60 million, the grants include nearly $31 million for six Core Facilities Support Awards. Additional research grants help support the recruitment of cancer scientists to academic institutions in Texas.

Texas Tech University has been awarded a $200,000 research grant to help improve cancer treatments by studying chemotherapy resistant tumors and cells.

The project is titled “Integrated on-chip networks for investigating exosome-mediated drug expulsion.” Wei Li, assistant professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering, is the principal investigator on this award, which is categorized as high impact/high risk.

Through this research grant, a microchip will be developed to better understand how cancer cells expel chemotherapeutic drugs through the “exosome” system and test the effectiveness of chemotherapy and gene-targeting therapies over traditional approaches.

Chemotherapy resistant tumors present a significant challenge to cancer treatments, particularly in the case of aggressive or more advanced forms of cancer (i.e. triple negative breast cancer). Recent studies have demonstrated that a subpopulation of resistant cancer cells expel chemotherapeutic drugs in extracellular compartments using specialized transporters system called “exosome”. The use of exosome-mediated transport in anti-cancer drug expulsion, however, is still unclear due to a lack of systematic and quantitative determination of specific molecule contents inside or attached to the exosomes. Current exosome research has been severely constrained by technical difficulties remain in isolation and molecular analysis of exosomes, lengthy processes, large sample volumes, and the use of simplified models that cannot fully recapitulate the complex network arises in tumors. In this proposal, we seek to develop a microchip that is comprised multiple cascading modules (e.g. on-chip culture of cancer cells, drug challenge, exosome isolation, drug-content analysis, etc.) for the investigation of the mechanism of cellular drug-exclusion and find solutions why the combination of chemotherapeutics and gene-targeting therapies is more effective than traditional approaches. Our approach is expect to dramatically increase the sensitivity and accuracy on testing drug resistance while reducing the assay time, sample preparation and cost.

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