Synthetic Human 2.1 — Empowering the Surgeon: $160,000 over one year

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Alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma is a cancer of the soft tissues. Local control for rhabdomyosarcoma is an important clinical challenge, and recurrence at the tumor resection bed can be a gateway to progression and metastasis. Our project seeks to put the types of cutting edge, non-chemotherapy medicines used by internists into the hands of the surgeon for the purpose of preventing local recurrence at the earliest possible moment. Envision giving a surgeon a tin can containing a targeted therapy in hydrogel, plus a paintbrush, and asking her/him to paint the site from where she/he has already removed a tumor – so that a cancer never arises from that location again. The project is one of a series in our lab where we have a team of engineers recreating tissue – in this case, artificial muscles. The goal is to have these red-glowing muscle cells be the “soil” upon which we add green-glowing tumor cell “seeds”. In our robot-driven test system, we will explore drugs that either treat the seeds, the soil, or both – with the goal of stopping any microscopic, leftover floating tumor cell from anchoring (rooting) and invading into the surrounding healthy muscle tissue.