Recently a group of nationally and internationally renowned experts in biomedical imaging, therapeutics and nanotechnology convened in Hanover, joining local experts and graduate students at the Engineering in Medicine Symposium. This is the second year of the event and the focus this year was redesigning cancer imaging and therapy.
The first day of the conference, Monday July 11th, was devoted to molecular imaging, using signals from small fluorescent probes or antibodies in order to learn about the underlying tissue. After all the talks, a poster session took place in the atrium of the Thayer School of Engineering. Many graduate students presented their research at this event. “It was a really neat opportunity to have so many top scientists come over and express interest in the work I have been doing,” said Jenn Demers, a graduate student at Thayer.
On Tuesday, the participants moved over to Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, showing the interdisciplinary nature of the conference. A couple of presentations were devoted to photodynamic therapy or PDT. PDT is a treatment for cancer (especially skin cancer), in which a photosensitizing agent is given to the patient. Then, light of a specific wavelength is shined on the patient’s skin in the target area. The light excites the photosensitizer, which will transfer energy to nearby oxygen molecules creating reactive oxygen that is harmful to the cells and leads to their death. Another presenter discussed using fluorescent agents during brain surgery in order to better visualize the tumor and allow the surgeon to remove as much as possible.
Nanotechnology in cancer was the focus for the final day of the conference. Some presenters discussed ways to get these very tiny particles delivered to tumors in order to then kill the cells via a drug or heat. The focus on nanotechnology is especially exciting because Dartmouth was recently awarded $12.8 million dollars as a Center for Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence from the National Cancer Institute/National Institute of Health.
Graduate students at Dartmouth really benefited from having the conference right outside of their laboratories. Andrew Giustini, an MD/PhD candidate said, “It was great to be at a small conference like this one. The size of the conference made it possible to have very productive conversations with many of the other attendees.” Adam Glaser was the only student who gave a talk at the conference, “I was obviously nervous, but definitely learned a lot from the opportunity.” There will be another Engineering in Medicine Symposium in Hanover next July.
by Kelly E. Michaelsen