Owen McCarty, PhD, Assistant Professor, Division of Biomedical Engineering in the Department of Science and Engineering, is part of a new consortium of scientists and engineers awarded $10 million by the National Cancer Institute to take a nontraditional approach to understanding cancer metastasis.
Led by the Scripps Research Institute, the consortium is dubbed the 4DB Center and brings together oncologists and pathologists at Scripps Clinic, the University of California San Diego Moore Cancer Center, and Billings Clinic (Montana) with physicists and biologists at Scripps Research Institute, applied mathematicians and engineers at the Viterbi School of Engineering, University of Southern California, and biomedical engineers at the OHSU School of Medicine.
The NCI announced the $10 million, five-year grant on October 26, as part of an initiative to launch 12 Physical Sciences–Oncology Centers around the country.
"Physical scientists think in terms of time, space, pressure, heat, and evolution in ways that we hope will lead to new understandings of the multitude of forces that govern cancer – and with that understanding, we hope to develop new and innovative methods of arresting tumor growth and metastasis," said NCI Director John E. Niederhuber, MD.
The goal of Dr. McCarty's team is to characterize the size, mechanical and ultrastructural properties of individual cancer cells across time, space and disease stages. Together, the 4DB team hopes to generate a comprehensive portrait of cancer cells including their numbers, physical properties, and gene expression profiles, as they act through space – in the body as well as time – over the course of the disease's progression.
Steven L. Jacques, PhD, Professor, and Kevin Phillips, PhD, post-doctoral researcher, both in the Departments of Dermatology and Biomedical Engineering, are part of the team and will focus on developing novel optical imaging tools for the study. This will be the first time that such a study has been conducted. Until recently, the technology was not available to make these types of observations about cancer cells without frequent biopsies from patients.
Dr. McCarty has a joint appointment in the Department of Cell & Developmental Biology.