Potential Cancer Treatment: Macrophage Activation Using Nanoparticles

April 23, 2015

By Lauren Reihl

14.5 million Americans are currently dealing with the effects of cancer; 1.6 million are expected to be diagnosed this year; and at an estimate of 600,000 annual deaths, cancer clocks in at the second most common cause of death in the United States. While surgery, chemotherapy and radiation are the most prevalent forms of treatment, they are not always successful and they come with a long list of side effects.

After watching the changes in her grandfather as he battled pancreatic cancer, senior biochemistry major Nichole Heaton decided to focus her undergraduate research on finding a better treatment. On SCHOLAR Day, she presented “Macrophage Activation Using Nanoparticles,” which discussed a potential cancer treatment that could be more successful than those currently in use.

Heaton researched the potential use of immunotherapy to fight cancerous cells. This is a cell-specific form of treatment, which could be less toxic to the body as a whole. Her research focused on how to activate the macrophages in order to kill cancerous cells. She found that by encapsulating the activating cargo, it would allow the macrophages to reach the cancerous cells. This just brings research one step closer to finding a good activating agent to target cancerous cells.

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