Glioblastoma is a lethal, aggressive brain cancer with a dismal median overall survival rate of 15 months, a number that has remained unchanged for decades. Treatment for this devastating disease involves surgical resection followed by chemotherapy and radiation therapy; however, tumor recurrence is inevitable as it is impossible to eliminate all tumor cells with current strategies. One of the biggest impediments to the development of more effective therapies is the low penetration of drugs to the brain when delivered systemically because of a very selective membrane, the blood-brain-barrier (BBB), that is designed to prevent more than 98% of the molecules from getting into the brain to protect it from pathogens. The Artzi lab at MIT and Harvard developed an adhesive hydrogel that can be sprayed or injected directly into the brain during surgery, eliminating the need to cross the BBB while enabling the local release of a cocktail of drugs and nanoparticles that activate the immune system. Their technology educates our body’s own immune cells to detect and kill cancer cells. The local delivery of the gel coats and attacks the tumor without causing harmful side effects and would only need to be administered once.
Natalie Artzi, Ph.D., is an Associate Faculty member at the Wyss Institute. Dr. Artzi is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Medicine, Division of Engineering in Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School. She is a Principal Research Scientist at MIT and an Associate Member of the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT. She completed her postdoctoral studies at MIT focusing on studying tissue: biomaterial interactions and designing smart biomaterials for therapy and diagnosis applications. Dr. Artzi is the recipient of multiple grants and awards, including the inaugural Kabiller Rising Star in Nanomedicine and Nanotechnology, One Brave Idea award, Stepping Strong Innovator Award and Breakthrough Award, Controlled Release Society Young Investigator Award, Mid-Career Award from the Society for Biomaterials, Bright Futures Prize, and the Massachusetts Life Science Center for women entrepreneurs.
Currently, Dr. Artzi directs multiple research venues aiming to integrate science, engineering and medicine to rationally design personalized materials to improve human health, and has co-founded a startup company, BioDevek, which develops the next-generation biomaterials to improve outcomes following internal surgeries. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community.