Shawn Hingtgen, Ph.D., a faculty member who is pioneering a new treatment for cancer using induced neural stem cells to deliver therapeutic agents, has been promoted to the rank of associate professor at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy.
Due to their expansive utility, stem cell-based therapies hold the potential to redefine therapeutic approaches and provide cures for many terminal diseases, Hingtgen said. His lab seeks to harness the potential of stem cells to develop new and better methods for treating terminal cancer. They use an integrative approach that begins with creating specially designed targeted therapeutic proteins. They then “arm” different stem cell types with the anti-cancer therapies and study the ability of stem cell-based therapies to improve both drug delivery and cancer cell killing using various preclinical models of human cancer. The stem cells used are induced neural stem cells, which can be created from a patient’s skin cells. Hingtgen’s initial focus was on glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer. New studies are advancing his work to peripheral tumors types that include triple negative breast cancer.
Falcon Therapeutics was founded to advance the discoveries generated in the Hingtgen lab towards the clinic to redefine the care for patients with cancers that are currently incurable. The company’s initial successful research was also in glioblastoma, but they have developed their personalized tumor-homing cell therapy technology into a platform able to treat solid tumor cancers, childhood cancers and metastatic disease.
Hingtgen joined the School’s Division of Molecular Pharmaceutics and Pharmacoengineering as an assistant professor in 2012. He holds a joint appointment as an assistant professor in the Department of Neurosurgery at the UNC School of Medicine.
In 2014 he received the Young Investigator Award from the Society for Neuro-Oncology and was a finalist for the Damon Runyon-Rachleff Innovation Award from the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation in 2013. He is the author of twenty-five refereed papers and articles with an h-index of 15 cited more than 700 times, as well as two book chapters.
Hingtgen completed his undergraduate work and earned his Ph.D. in anatomy and cell biology from the University of Iowa. He then completed postdoctoral fellowships with Ralph Weissleder, M.D., Ph.D., and Khalid Shah, Ph.D., at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
Hingtgen has taught in both the School’s professional and graduate curriculum, delivering more than 20 lectures during a year. His lab currently includes two research scientists, two postdoctoral fellows, one clinical fellow, five graduate students and three undergraduate students.