A 3D hydrogel created by researchers in University Professor Molly Shoichet’s (ChemE, IBBME) lab is helping University of Ottawa researchers to quickly screen hundreds of potential drugs for their ability to fight highly invasive cancers.
Cell invasion is a critical hallmark of metastatic cancers, such as certain types of lung and brain cancer. Fighting these cancers requires therapies that can both kill cancer cells as well as prevent cell invasion of healthy tissue. Today, most cancer drugs are only screened for their ability to kill cancer cells.
“In highly invasive diseases, there is a crucial need to screen for both of these functions,” says Shoichet, whose lab is located in the Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research. “We now have a way to do this.”
Shoichet and her team are internationally known for their work on hydrogels, jello-like materials based on hyaluronic acid, a biocompatible substance commonly used in cosmetics. In the past, they have used hydrogels to enhance stem cells that are injected in the body to overcome disease or degeneration.