A UT Arlington bioengineering professor is using tissue-engineered artificial lymph nodes to attract prostate cancer cells to better target and eradicate the disease.
Liping Tang, bioengineering professor and interim chair of the Bioengineering Department, has received a $533,650 U.S. Army grant to build the lymph nodes that attract the cancer cells.
"The tissue-engineered lymph nodes can be made to resemble what the cancer will look like after it spreads to other sites," Tang said. "When prostate cancer metastasizes, that's when it becomes dangerous and deadly. This research tries to stop the cancer before it spreads. We attract the cancer with these decoys. Then, when it's trapped, we can use a more targeted radiation."
Tang said his team has built the artificial lymph nodes out of biodegradable polymers.
"Through the attraction of these prostate cancer cells, we can then identify the way the cancer moves," Tang said. "These artificial lymph nodes will then become an important tool in identifying the critical biological signals that help the cancer migrate throughout the body."
Eventually, Tang believes his research will allow patients to live longer cancer-free.
He said the artificial lymph nodes also could be used on people who are at risk to the disease but have yet to present any symptoms.
Khosrow Behbehani, dean of the College of Engineering, said attracting the cancer cells offers hope for prostate cancer patients.
"A drawback of current cancer treatments is that there is no good method to catch the metastatic cancer cells," Behbehani said. "Dr. Tang's research allows physicians to be much more focused. It holds great promise of containing cancer through the creation of these artificial lymph nodes."
Jer-Tsong Hsieh, a UT Southwestern urology expert and the Dr. John McConnell Distinguished Chair in Prostate Cancer Research, is collaborating with Tang on the research.
Tang said research could reach clinical stages in five to eight years. This research is funded to support the mission of the Fiscal Year 2013 Prostate Cancer Research Program to the elimination of death from prostate cancer and enhance the well-being of men experiencing the impact of the disease.
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