Zdravka Medarova, Ph.D.
Associate Professor in Radiology, Harvard Medical School
Progress Towards Rational Cancer Therapy
Over 90% of deaths from cancer are, in fact, due to metastasis and not the primary tumor. However, development of cancer therapeutics is traditionally focused on the primary tumor, which is partly the reason behind the poor outcomes in cancer patients diagnosed with metastatic disease. Conventional therapies targeted towards the primary tumor cell oftentimes do not affect the metastatic cell and, in fact, may promote metastasis. This fact is behind the poor outcomes in patients diagnosed with metastatic disease despite the good prognosis of patients with localized cancer of the same organ of origin. For these reasons the focus of our research has been on developing therapy specific to metastases and not primary tumors. Specifically, our studies have aimed at filling a significant gap in the therapeutic approach towards cancer because they addressed the urgent unmet need of developing therapy specific to the metastatic tumor cells. These cells have the unique ability to break out of the primary tumor mass, travel through the circulation, and colonize a new vital organ in the process of metastasis. Importantly, these cells are genetically and phenotypically distinct from the majority of the cells in the tumor mass, spawning metastatic lesions that have diverged in their gene expression profile from their respective primary tumors.
Zdravka Medarova is an Associate Professor in Radiology at Harvard Medical School and Assistant at the Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Medarova holds a B.A. in pre-medicine from the University of Southern Main, and a Ph.D. in Genetics from the University of New Hampshire. Her postdoctoral training was at the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. Dr. Medarova's interests fall within the realm of miRNA-targeted cancer therapy. Her team described, for the first time, the design and application of ultrasmall iron oxide nanoparticles as imaging-capable carriers of siRNA to tumors. This work generated substantial interest in the research community, since it illustrated the value of these nanoparticles for the delivery of small RNA therapy to challenging organ targets and also described an approach for the noninvasive monitoring of small RNA delivery. The latter property was particularly novel and important at the time, considering the overall lack of direct knowledge about the bioavailability of small RNA after in vivo delivery and the crucial relevance of adequate delivery to therapeutic success. More recenty, Dr. Medarova’s team focused on the development of miRNA-targeted therapy for metastatic disease.
Friday, November 10, 20173:25 PM
121 Snell Library
Sponsored by the CaNCURE and Nanomedicine Academy Programs