Divided into three engagement cores and four research projects, The Hasan Program Project examines how Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) can be combined with molecular therapy, chemo therapy, and radiation therapy to treat cancers including pancreatic cancer, non-melanoma skin cancers, and biliary tract carcinoma. This multi-institutional project engages research groups from the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth, the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, the Norris Cotton Cancer Center, Harvard Medical School, the Massachusetts General Hospital, the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, and the University College London Medical School.
The multidisciplinary platform of The Hasan Program Project allows researchers to examine a number of applications of PDT: Project 1 focuses on how the molecular pathways of non-melanoma skin cancer are affected by compounds which enhance PDT; Project 2 studies how PDT can be used to extend the life expectancy of patients with either pancreatic or biliary tract carcinoma; Project 3 examines previous results of the molecular response to PDT as to help improve future treatment outcomes; and Project 4 uses optical imaging to record the responses of tumors to therapies, and uses the results to develop a molecular-based combination therapy for treatment proposes.
To ensure that the research of each of these projects is disseminated effectively, The Hasan Program Project’s leaders have created three engagement cores. The Administrative Core (Core A) ensures that all of the institutions involved with the project are working as a cohesive unit, and that all research findings are distributed to the parties involved. Biological Model, Molecular Phathology and Biostatistics (Core B) provides a research platform for molecular pathology, and finally In vivo Imaging, Dosimetry and Technology Transfer (Core C) provides a collaborative research platform for imaging and dosimetry.
Brian Pogue, one of the Optics in Medicine Laboratory’s directors, is the leader of Project 4, Image-Guided and Model-Based Optical Dosimetry Tools. This project uses two methods to image cancer in both experimental cancer models and in patients, and tests to see if these imaging techniques can accurately image the biophysical parameters of tissues, photosensitizer concentration, and blood flow in tumors. The project uses image-guided spectroscopy to measure tissue values in vivo, and examines how this imaging technique can be integrated into existing imaging methods to improve the effectiveness of these techniques. The research being conducted in Project 4 is divided into three aims, all of which examine a different aspect of medical imaging in cancer treatment.
At Dartmouth, the bulk of this research is being conducted by the directors and faculty members of the Optics in Medicine Laboratory. Faculty member Kimberley Samkoe is researching how PDT can be used to treat pancreatic cancer (PanCa) and is examining the role of Erbitux—an antibody agent receptor often used to treat head and neck cancers—in PanCa therapy. Research scientist Chad Kanick is developing optical techniques to monitor patient-specific PDT treatments and is creating mathematical systems which model light transport in tissue. Research scientist Scott Davis is developing both clinical probe-based and wide-field imaging systems to measure PDT drug delivery during treatment and using these systems to customize therapy regimens and to predict outcomes. Finally, Jason Gunn, lab director of the Optics in Medicine Laboratory, oversees and coordinates all of the research being conducted for The Hasan Program Project by running assays, performing preliminary animal surgeries, and doing pathology preparation.