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New Pelotonia-funded grant to investigate breast cancer metastasis to the brain

Fluorescent images of the engineered blood vesselsFluorescent images of the engineered blood vessels are used to analyze metastasis pathways and mechanisms.Breast cancer metastasis to the brain is known to be a significant clinical problem. Despite this, it’s a surprisingly understudied issue. Mechanical engineering Assistant Professor Jonathan Song, along with radiation oncology Assistant Professor Gina Sizemore, will contribute to the topic’s knowledge base.

The researchers have recently been awarded a two-year, $200,000 Pelotonia-funded grant from The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center to investigate the role of blood vessels in brain metastases. They aim for their fundamental work to inform future drug development. Their proposal—“Probing the Mechanisms of Vessel Co-option and Resistance to Anti-angiogenesis Therapy with Engineered Microvessels”—was submitted through the CCC’s Spring 2019 Intramural Research Program.

“Our study will examine four breast cancer cell lines that model triple negative breast cancer and HER2 amplified breast cancer, the subtypes most commonly associated with brain metastasis,” said Song.

Specifically, the study intends to identify potential pathways and mechanisms of blood vessel co-option that may enable certain cancers to maintain adequate blood supply and thereby undergo resistance to anti-angiogenic drugs.

Photo of Jonathan SongSongSong has expertise in blood vessel structure and function, while Sizemore has focused work on breast cancer metastasis to the brain. During the study the investigators will establish a model, characterize it, then perform in vitro testing.

While current research indicates that anti-angiogenesis resistance in some tumors is due to blood vessel co-option, there are limited available tools for studying the co-option process to identify pathways that could be disrupted. This novel model, if validated, would provide an in vitro analysis of vessel co-option facilitating detailed studies that are difficult, if not impossible, in vivo.

“In short,” said Song, “results of the project would allow testing of drug targets to address identified mechanisms that allow tumors to avoid anti-angiogenic treatment.”

Includes submitted excerpts.