Honors & Awards
NSF Graduate Student Fellowship, National Science Foundation (9/2016-8/2018)
Education & Certifications
Master of Science, Stanford University, BIOE-MS (2016)
BSE, University of Pennsylvania, Bioengineering (2014)
- Nanoparticles Functionalized with Collagenase Exhibit Improved Tumor Accumulation in a Murine Xenograft Model Particle 2014; 31 (12): 1307-1312
Engineered immune cells as highly sensitive cancer diagnostics.
Endogenous biomarkers remain at the forefront of early disease detection efforts, but many lack the sensitivities and specificities necessary to influence disease management. Here, we describe a cell-based in vivo sensor for highly sensitive early cancer detection. We engineer macrophages to produce a synthetic reporter on adopting an M2 tumor-associated metabolic profile by coupling luciferase expression to activation of the arginase-1 promoter. After adoptive transfer in colorectal and breast mouse tumor models, the engineered macrophages migrated to the tumors and activated arginase-1 so that they could be detected by bioluminescence imaging and luciferase measured in the blood. The macrophage sensor detected tumors as small as 25-50 mm3 by blood luciferase measurements, even in the presence of concomitant inflammation, and was more sensitive than clinically used protein and nucleic acid cancer biomarkers. Macrophage sensors also effectively tracked the immunological response in muscle and lung models of inflammation, suggesting the potential utility of this approach in disease states other than cancer.
View details for PubMedID 30886438
- Tracking T Cell Activation By OX40 Immuno-PET: A Novel Strategy for Imaging of Graft Versus Host Disease AMER SOC HEMATOLOGY. 2018
A NOVEL METABOLIC PET TRACER STRATEGY TO DETERMINE EARLY EFFECTS OF TUMOR TREATING FIELDS (TTFIELDS)
OXFORD UNIV PRESS INC. 2018: 32
View details for Web of Science ID 000460646300124
COMPARISON OF THREE METABOLIC PET RADIOTRACERS IN GLIOBLASTOMA: CELL CULTURE AND ANIMAL STUDIES
OXFORD UNIV PRESS INC. 2018: 34
View details for Web of Science ID 000460646300129
The Utility of [18F]DASA-23 for Molecular Imaging of Prostate Cancer with Positron Emission Tomography.
Molecular imaging and biology : MIB : the official publication of the Academy of Molecular Imaging
There is a strong, unmet need for superior positron emission tomography (PET) imaging agents that are able to measure biochemical processes specific to prostate cancer. Pyruvate kinase M2 (PKM2) catalyzes the concluding step in glycolysis and is a key regulator of tumor growth and metabolism. Elevation of PKM2 expression was detected in Gleason 8-10 tumors compared to Gleason 6-7 carcinomas, indicating that PKM2 may potentially be a marker of aggressive prostate cancer. We have recently reported the development of a PKM2-specific radiopharmaceutical [18F]DASA-23 and herein describe its evaluation in cell culture and preclinical models of prostate cancer.The cellular uptake of [18F]DASA-23 was evaluated in a panel of prostate cancer cell lines and compared to that of [18F]FDG. The specificity of [18F]DASA-23 to measure PKM2 levels in cell culture was additionally confirmed through the use of PKM2-specific siRNA. PET imaging studies were then completed utilizing subcutaneous prostate cancer xenografts using either PC3 or DU145 cells in mice.[18F]DASA-23 uptake values over 60-min incubation period in PC3, LnCAP, and DU145 respectively were 23.4 ± 4.5, 18.0 ± 2.1, and 53.1 ± 4.6 % tracer/mg protein. Transient reduction in PKM2 protein expression with siRNA resulted in a 50.1 % reduction in radiotracer uptake in DU145 cells. Small animal PET imaging revealed 0.86 ± 0.13 and 1.6 ± 0.2 % ID/g at 30 min post injection of radioactivity in DU145 and PC3 subcutaneous tumor bearing mice respectively.Herein, we evaluated a F-18-labeled PKM2-specific radiotracer, [18F]DASA-23, for the molecular imaging of prostate cancer with PET. [18F]DASA-23 revealed rapid and extensive uptake levels in cellular uptake studies of prostate cancer cells; however, there was only modest tumor uptake when evaluated in mouse subcutaneous tumor models.
View details for PubMedID 29736561
Deactivated CRISPR Associated Protein 9 for Minor-Allele Enrichment in Cell-Free DNA.
Cell-free DNA (cfDNA) diagnostics are emerging as a new paradigm of disease monitoring and therapy management. The clinical utility of these diagnostics is relatively limited by a low signal-to-noise ratio, such as with low allele frequency (AF) mutations in cancer. While enriching for rare alleles to increase their AF before sample analysis is one strategy that can greatly improve detection capability, current methods are limited in their generalizability, ease of use, and applicability to point mutations.Leveraging the robust single-base-pair specificity and generalizability of the CRISPR associated protein 9 (Cas9) system, we developed a deactivated Cas9 (dCas9)-based method of minor-allele enrichment capable of efficient single-target and multiplexed enrichment. The dCas9 protein was complexed with single guide RNAs targeted to mutations of interest and incubated with cfDNA samples containing mutant strands at low abundance. Mutation-bound dCas9 complexes were isolated, dissociated, and the captured DNA purified for downstream use.Targeting the 3 most common epidermal growth factor receptor mutations (exon 19 deletion, T790M, L858R) found in nonsmall-cell lung cancer (NSCLC), we achieved >20-fold increases in AF and detected mutations by use of qPCR at an AF of 0.1%. In a cohort of 18 NSCLC patient-derived cfDNA samples, our method enabled detection of 8 out of 13 mutations that were otherwise undetected by qPCR.The dCas9 method provides important application of the CRISPR/Cas9 system outside the realm of genome editing and can provide a step forward for the detection capability of cfDNA diagnostics.
View details for PubMedID 29038154
AshwaMAX and Withaferin A inhibits gliomas in cellular and murine orthotopic models
JOURNAL OF NEURO-ONCOLOGY
2016; 126 (2): 253-264
Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is an aggressive, malignant cancer Johnson and O'Neill (J Neurooncol 107: 359-364, 2012). An extract from the winter cherry plant (Withania somnifera ), AshwaMAX, is concentrated (4.3 %) for Withaferin A; a steroidal lactone that inhibits cancer cells Vanden Berghe et al. (Cancer Epidemiol Biomark Prev 23: 1985-1996, 2014). We hypothesized that AshwaMAX could treat GBM and that bioluminescence imaging (BLI) could track oral therapy in orthotopic murine models of glioblastoma. Human parietal-cortical glioblastoma cells (GBM2, GBM39) were isolated from primary tumors while U87-MG was obtained commercially. GBM2 was transduced with lentiviral vectors that express Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP)/firefly luciferase fusion proteins. Mutational, expression and proliferative status of GBMs were studied. Intracranial xenografts of glioblastomas were grown in the right frontal regions of female, nude mice (n = 3-5 per experiment). Tumor growth was followed through BLI. Neurosphere cultures (U87-MG, GBM2 and GBM39) were inhibited by AshwaMAX at IC50 of 1.4, 0.19 and 0.22 µM equivalent respectively and by Withaferin A with IC50 of 0.31, 0.28 and 0.25 µM respectively. Oral gavage, every other day, of AshwaMAX (40 mg/kg per day) significantly reduced bioluminescence signal (n = 3 mice, p < 0.02, four parameter non-linear regression analysis) in preclinical models. After 30 days of treatment, bioluminescent signal increased suggesting onset of resistance. BLI signal for control, vehicle-treated mice increased and then plateaued. Bioluminescent imaging revealed diffuse growth of GBM2 xenografts. With AshwaMAX, GBM neurospheres collapsed at nanomolar concentrations. Oral treatment studies on murine models confirmed that AshwaMAX is effective against orthotopic GBM. AshwaMAX is thus a promising candidate for future clinical translation in patients with GBM.
View details for DOI 10.1007/s11060-015-1972-1
View details for Web of Science ID 000368728300005
- Theranostic Application of Mixed Gold and Superparamagnetic Iron Oxide Nanoparticle Micelles in Glioblastoma Multiforme Journal of Biomedical Technology 2016; 12 (2): 347-356
Theranostic Gold Nanoparticles Modified for Durable Systemic Circulation Effectively and Safely Enhance the Radiation Therapy of Human Sarcoma Cells and Tumors
2013; 6 (6): 722-U363
Radiation therapy (RT) is an integral component of the treatment of many sarcomas and relies on accurate targeting of tumor tissue. Despite conventional treatment planning and RT, local failure rates of 10% to 28% at 5 years have been reported for locally advanced, unresectable sarcomas, due in part to limitations in the cumulative RT dose that may be safely delivered. We describe studies of the potential usefulness of gold nanoparticles modified for durable systemic circulation (through polyethylene glycosylation; hereinafter "P-GNPs") as adjuvants for RT of sarcomas. In studies of two human sarcoma-derived cell lines, P-GNP in conjunction with RT caused increased unrepaired DNA damage, reflected by approximately 1.61-fold increase in γ-H2AX (histone phosphorylated on Ser(139)) foci density compared with RT alone. The combined RT and P-GNP also led to significantly reduced clonogenic survival of tumor cells, compared to RT alone, with dose-enhancement ratios of 1.08 to 1.16. In mice engrafted with human sarcoma tumor cells, the P-GNP selectively accumulated in the tumor and enabled durable imaging, potentially aiding radiosensitization as well as treatment planning. Mice pretreated with P-GNP before targeted RT of their tumors exhibited significantly improved tumor regression and overall survival, with long-term survival in one third of mice in this treatment group compared to none with RT only. Interestingly, prior RT of sarcoma tumors increased subsequent extravasation and in-tumor deposition of P-GNP. These results together suggest P-GNP may be integrated into the RT of sarcomas, potentially improving target imaging and radiosensitization of tumor while minimizing dose to normal tissues.
View details for DOI 10.1593/tlo.13433
View details for Web of Science ID 000330342400014
View details for PubMedID 24466375
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC3890707
Selective Targeting of Brain Tumors with Gold Nanoparticle-Induced Radiosensitization
2013; 8 (4)
Successful treatment of brain tumors such as glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is limited in large part by the cumulative dose of Radiation Therapy (RT) that can be safely given and the blood-brain barrier (BBB), which limits the delivery of systemic anticancer agents into tumor tissue. Consequently, the overall prognosis remains grim. Herein, we report our pilot studies in cell culture experiments and in an animal model of GBM in which RT is complemented by PEGylated-gold nanoparticles (GNPs). GNPs significantly increased cellular DNA damage inflicted by ionizing radiation in human GBM-derived cell lines and resulted in reduced clonogenic survival (with dose-enhancement ratio of ~1.3). Intriguingly, combined GNP and RT also resulted in markedly increased DNA damage to brain blood vessels. Follow-up in vitro experiments confirmed that the combination of GNP and RT resulted in considerably increased DNA damage in brain-derived endothelial cells. Finally, the combination of GNP and RT increased survival of mice with orthotopic GBM tumors. Prior treatment of mice with brain tumors resulted in increased extravasation and in-tumor deposition of GNP, suggesting that RT-induced BBB disruption can be leveraged to improve the tumor-tissue targeting of GNP and thus further optimize the radiosensitization of brain tumors by GNP. These exciting results together suggest that GNP may be usefully integrated into the RT treatment of brain tumors, with potential benefits resulting from increased tumor cell radiosensitization to preferential targeting of tumor-associated vasculature.
View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0062425
View details for Web of Science ID 000319077300056
View details for PubMedID 23638079
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC3640092