Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University: 2009 – 2010

(from top to bottom) Lonnie Shea, PhD, Dean Ho, PhD and William L. Kath, PhD

The Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University is committed to being a national leader in the battle to overcome cancer, with significant research in basic, clinical, prevention and control, behavioral and population-based investigations.

The Engineering Faculty Fellowship Program, thanks to generous support from the Washington Square Health Foundation, is providing fellowships for faculty members from Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science (McCormick) to work with cancer biologists for an academic quarter. The selected McCormick faculty members bring expertise in areas such as imaging, biomaterials and drug delivery to the collaborations, and address scientific challenges from a different perspective. These partnerships accelerate the process of translation, which will ultimately result in more rapid testing of new therapies for cancer patients.

McCormick Professor Lonnie Shea, PhD, was the inaugural fellow, working closely with Vincent Cryns, MD, (endocrinology) and Jacqueline Jeruss, MD, PhD, (breast cancer) on a transformative technology that allows for large-scale assessment of signaling pathway activity in cells. “Analyzing cancer cells to determine treatments is typically accomplished by measuring the absence or presence of specific proteins,” explains Dr. Shea.  Based on their collaboration, he and his colleagues have developed an approach that is based, instead, on measuring the activity of these proteins, and worked together during his fellowship to identify potential applications of this technology in the area of cancer.

McCormick Associate Professor, Dean Ho, PhD, utilized the second fellowship working with the laboratories of Kenji Muro, MD / Tadanori Tomita, MD, (neurosurgery) and Seema Khan, MD / Robert Chatterton, PhD (breast cancer) on the applications of nanodiamonds (tiny diamond nanoparticles) as agents to deliver chemotherapy drugs for the treatment of brain cancer and breast cancer.  Preliminary studies demonstrate that, “nanodiamonds increase potential for sustained delivery with decreased side effects,” says Dr. Ho.

The third fellow, McCormick Professor, William L. Kath, PhD, recently completed work in the laboratory of Jonathan Licht, MD (hematology / oncology), using network analysis and computational modeling to compare different states of gene expression in both normal and cancer cells.  Different types of cancer exhibit distinct sets of genetic changes; the long-term goal of this work is to develop methods that can identify the cause-and-effect relationships veiled within such genetic signatures.

For more information about the Lurie Cancer Center, visit