Lorenzo Albertazzi is associate professor at the Department of Biomedical Engineering. His aim is to attack cancer cells with nanoparticles personalized for each patient. This can be done by determining the unique patient-specific characteristics of the cancer cells and creating nanoparticles tailored for these. These particles can then be 'loaded' with drugs and transported to the right place, for a precise and effective therapy.
That's not so easy, since cancer cells are very similar to healthy cells. Albertazzi focuses on the so-called receptors, proteins expressed on the outside of the cell that make it recognizable to the outside world. A healthy cell that is transformed into a cancer cell will change their type and number. This process can be used to differentiate the tumor cells and allowing to deliver medications to the diseased cells, while the healthy cells are less affected by the drugs.
The only problem is that each patient is different and presents a different ratio of receptors between the healthy and the cancer cells. That makes it difficult to direct the nanoparticles properly. It is therefore necessary to precisely determine the receptor density for every patient. Albertazzi is going to do that by using a new microscopy technique: super-resolution microscopy. With this tool he aims to visualize the surface of cancer cells and design tailored nanoparticles. The efficacy of these nanoparticles will eventually be tested in different breast cancer models.