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Widener Engineering Awarded W.W. Smith Charitable Trust Grant to Investigate Cancer Immunotherapies

Dr. Sachin Patil, undergraduate engineering student

The research, led by Dr. Patil along with undergraduate engineering students, investigates novel treatments that activate the body's own immune system to fight the cancer.

Chester, Pa. – The Widener University School of Engineering was awarded a grant from the W.W. Smith Charitable Trust to investigate novel cancer therapeutics. The funding is expected to reach a total of $100,000 over a two-year period in support of research led by Dr. Sachin Patil, interim dean of engineering, to identify long-term pathways for future development of more potent and selective treatments against a variety of cancers.

Primary cancer therapies, including surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, all present serious limitations and can have harmful effects on patients. As a result, there is a significant unmet need for the development of novel, effective and non-toxic therapeutics against cancer. Using an innovative integrated molecular screening approach, Patil, along with undergraduate engineering students, will test a specific kind of therapy that uses the body’s own immune system, and works through small-molecule inhibitory pathways.

“Immunotherapy has significantly changed the way the medical and research communities approach cancer care,” said Patil. “By harnessing the fighting power of the body’s own immune system, we are able to identify targeted treatment options for the individual patient. With this grant, my research team and I can build upon our data to further investigate innovative therapeutics that will lay the groundwork to deliver life-saving and more affordable care.”

Patil’s research focuses on the development of small‐molecule inhibitors in order to provide an attractive alternative approach to treating tumors that possess the PD−L1 protein. Current Food and Drug Administration approved inhibitors designed to block PD-1 and PD-L1 interaction have demonstrated clinical efficacy against cancer. While effective, these inhibitors, which consist mainly of large protein antibodies, are expensive, can cause short- and long-term side effects and are slow to kill a cancerous tumor. Small-molecule inhibitors, however, are found to potentially offer several effective and inexpensive advantages such as availability to be taken in pill form, better tumor infiltration, and relatively shorter half-life that is especially helpful in controlling any potential adverse immune reactions. These advantages were discovered in a recent study led by Patil and published in Chemistry Select.

“Our preliminary data found successful structure‐based discovery of small‐molecule inhibitors of PD‐1 and PD−L1 interaction through virtual screening followed by experimental testing of select compounds,” said Patil. “This grant will allow for further investigation of our preliminary data.”

The W.W. Smith Charitable Trust is a private foundation that supports a variety of research areas including basic medical research. The Trust supports unique and meritorious research that may lead to breakthrough discoveries that will immeasurably improve lives. 

 

Widener University is a private, metropolitan university that connects curricula to social issues through civic engagement. Dynamic teaching, active scholarship, personal attention, leadership development and experiential learning are key components of the Widener experience. A comprehensive doctorate-granting university, Widener comprises seven schools and colleges that offer liberal arts and sciences, professional and pre-professional curricula leading to associate, baccalaureate, master’s and doctoral degrees. Visit the university website, http://www.widener.edu/

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