One of the most compelling issues in preclinical and clinical drug discovery is the ability to accurately monitor drug action and patient responsiveness. For example, the heterogeneity of breast cancers requires that we create a means by which the appropriate patients are selected for the appropriate drugs. Even individual cells in the same tumor can exhibit differences in their responsiveness to drugs, a quandary that represents one of the biggest challenges in cancer research today.
In collaboration with Nancy Allbritton in the Department of Chemistry and the Department of Biomedical Engineering, along with oncologists and surgeons in the School of Medicine, members in our group are developing exquisitely sensitive sensors and analytical methods to define tumors at the resolution of single cells. In particular, we have developed a technology that directly measures enzymatic activity in single cells from cell lines and patient samples.
The technology is comprised of light-activated chemical sensors used in combination with highly sensitive in-house built microelectrophoresis/microscopy instrumentation. We anticipate that these tools will enhance our ability to determine the best treatment options for an array of cancers as well as to anticipate disease outcome.