Dr. Hossein Tavana, an associate professor of biomedical engineering at The University of Akron (UA), has received a grant of $1.13 million from the prestigious National Cancer Institute (NCI) to further develop 3D tumor models of triple-negative breast cancer, which may improve drug testing and lead to the discovery of new, more effective anticancer drugs. The Tavana lab’s 3D tumor models have now received more than $2 million in federal funding support within one year.
The institution now known as The University of Akron was founded as Buchtel College in 1870 by the Ohio Universalist Convention, which was strongly influenced by the efforts, energy and financial support of Akronites, particularly industrialist John R. Buchtel. The University of Akron is the region’s most influential public research university, contributing to the resurgence of the local economy, providing a workforce highly trained in diverse disciplines, and known for an innovative approach to higher education.
The 3D models developed in Tavana’s Tissue Engineering Microtechnologies lab, which have already led to several issued U.S. patents, more accurately replicate human tumors than do traditional 2D cultures on a Petri dish, enabling more accurate drug testing and the discovery of new drugs.
The new NCI grant will enable Tavana’s lab to develop much needed “high-throughput” drug screens of breast tumors, leading to understanding of the drivers of the disease.
Solid tumors are not simply a collection of cancerous cells; they are a rich microenvironment of cancer cells, connective tissue cells, and a mesh of matrix proteins. The Tavana lab’s engineering mindset to create complex tumor models in a high-throughput format can account for these variables, systematically.
3D models, as is well known, rely on banked cells or fresh tumor samples.
“Through this research, we expect to establish our technology as a transformative advance that will be implemented broadly for drug discovery, studies of breast cancer and other malignancies, and precision medicine through incorporating patient-derived cells.”
“Competition for the NIH’s NCI grants is fierce, and universities with a medical school or partnership with cancer centers have a major advantage. UA has neither, so it is a testament to the strength of our research that we have secured continuous funding from NIH for the past seven years.” – Hossein Tavana, PhD, associate professor of biomedical engineering, The University of Akron