Image-based Drug Delivery

NIH Grant R01CA156177

The location and structure of glioma—a brain and spinal cancer that arises from glial cells—makes it difficult to image and treat. The Optics in Medicine Laboratory seeks to combine drug delivery with magnetic resonance guided optical imaging quantification (MROQ) to create an image guided platform for the treatment of these problematic tumors. This noninvasive treatment method uses a number of optical methods and advanced imagining techniques to maximize the effectiveness of this type of cancer treatment.

Based off of photodynamic therapy (PDT)—a medical treatment where a light-activated drug is absorbed into a tumor, and is then activated using optics—this multidisciplinary treatment platform delivers the photosensitizer to the tumor using an artificial liposome base. These lipid spheres are then absorbed by the tumor where it delivers multiple agents to the cancerous cells, including a photosensitizing agent.

Delivering drugs to gliomas in this manner is beneficial in that 1.) it prevents the photosensitizing agent from being absorbed by the brain tissue surrounding the tumor, and 2.) it allows for the combination of optical imaging and photodynamic therapy. Combining cancer imaging with cancer therapy allows specialists to synchronize the vascular delivery of photosensitizers with photodynamic treatment, thus increasing the effectiveness of this treatment. Also, using pharmacokinetic drug delivery in tandem with optical imaging techniques allows the Optics in Medicine Laboratory to accurately track therapeutic agents as they move through cancerous tissue.

A portion of this study was conducted with one of the research groups of Tayyaba Hasan, a Professor of Dermatology at Harvard Medical School and a Director at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). Through this collaboration, the Optics in Medicine Laboratory has examined how two or more therapies that are mechanistically independent and directed at non-overlapping molecular targets and pathways will provide the most effective treatments.

In examining how the molecular tracers of glioma tumors can be used to effectively quantify tumor receptor activity, this research aims to create a non-invasive treatment method for glioma that combines optical fluorescence with other types of treatment.