Nitin Agrawal, Ph.D., is focused on developing novel micro- and nanotechnologies and cell therapies for various applications particularly against brain tumors. These lab-on-a-chip platforms allow artificial recreation of conditions mimicking the in vivo microenvironment for investigating drug responses, cell-cell interactions, and the underlying mechanisms that triggers tumor metastasis.
The efficacy of anti-tumor drugs is effected by several epigenetic factors including tumor heterogeneity, hypoxia, cell survival mechanisms (i.e. EMT, unfolded protein responses, autophagy etc.) that induce drug resistance. Furthermore, it is well established that combination of drugs often demonstrate improved efficacy and reduced side effects as compared to their effects as single agent therapies. Nonetheless, determination of synergistic effects of multiple drug candidates under normal or hypoxic conditions is challenging and not feasible for developing personalized treatments. A novel combinatorial drug screening microchip technology developed by Dr. Agrawal provides a rapid and inexpensive strategy to not only determine the right combination of synergistic drugs against patient's own cancer cells but also their effective doses and responses across a range of hypoxic conditions.
Another major challenge in successful administration of therapeutics to the brain tumor tissue is the presence of blood brain barrier. Dr. Agrawal is developing techniques to encapsulate lipid nanoparticles with drugs or biological material for targeted delivery to the brain thus preventing their interaction with healthy cells. Currently, there exists a gap between laboratory research and their real world bedside applications and the low cost technologies developed by Dr. Agrawal's lab holds the potential to narrow this gap.