Due to their expansive utility, stem cell-based therapies hold the potential to redefine therapeutic approaches and provide cures for many terminal diseases. In the Hingtgen lab, we seek to harness the potential of stem cells to develop new and better methods for treating terminal cancers, including brain cancer. We use an integrative approach that begins with creating specially designed targeted therapeutic proteins. We then “arm” different stem cell types with the anti-cancer molecules, and investigate the ability of stem cell-based therapies to improve both drug delivery and cancer cell killing using various small animal models of human brain cancer. Central to our research is the extensive integration of non-invasive imaging. We use multiple imaging modalities to provide real-time dynamic feedback on stem cell and tumor cell volumes and distribution, pharmacokinetics of drug delivery, and the overall effectiveness of our therapeutic approaches. By bringing together the tools and techniques of molecular biology, viral vectors, targeted therapeutics, stem cell biology, and molecular imaging with highly translatable animal models, we hope to ultimately bring successful cell-based treatments for brain tumors into the clinics.
Shawn D Hingtgen, PhD