Being named to a Forbes Magazine list probably isn't on the radar of many researchers, especially those just starting their careers. But Mayo Clinic's Joy Wolfram, Ph.D., has found herself in that situation after earning her way onto the publication's annual list of "30 under 30." The magazine describes this group of list-makers as "the brashest entrepreneurs across the United States and Canada" who are "putting a new twist on the old tools of the trade" and "shaking up some of the world's stodgiest industries." (Hey now.)
Forbes describes Dr. Wolfram, director of Mayo's Nanomedicine and Extracellular Vesicles Laboratory, as "the author of over 40 publications since age 24" who has "designed several preclinical nanomedicine treatment strategies, some of which are expected to enter early stage clinical trials in 2019."
It's something KTTC-TV's Tom Overlie got to see firsthand when he visited Dr. Wolfram and members of her Nanomedicine and Extracellular Vesicles Lab team at Mayo Clinic's Florida campus. The group continues their push to redesign — if not revolutionize — targeted cancer treatments to help the millions of people who die from the disease every year. "We need to think out of the box," Dr. Wolfram tells Overlie. "We need to think big and be visionaries."
As Overlie reports, Team Wolfram is focusing its collective research efforts on nanomedicine particles that Dr. Wolfram explains are like "tiny cars" that can be "loaded up" with cancer-fighting drugs and sent to the exact location within a patient's body where they can do the most good. "These tiny cars can then drive to the diseased area so we don't get all these side effects with the conventional therapies that are going all over our bodies," she says.
"But like a lot of road trips," Overlie says, "there are often a few bumps along the way." One of the biggest speed bumps for Dr. Wolfram and her research team has been the body's liver, which likes to get in the way by treating the cancer-fighting caravans as unlicensed motorists, so to speak, filtering them out of the body before they can reach their destination. "So then we have to use innovative approaches to stop the nanoparticles from getting stuck inside the liver," Dr. Wolfram tells Overlie.
One way to do that, Overlie reports, is by finding ways to "load up" cancer drugs into the nanoparticles that already exist within our blood, saliva and urine. "So we can use our own nanoparticles from our own bodies as a Trojan horse and hide the cancer drugs inside so that when they're injected into the body they're not recognized as foreign — they're not destroyed," Dr. Wolfram says.
This article originally appeared on Mayo's In the Loop blog.