Steinbacher Takes Aim at Cancer

Buffalo, NY – Jeremy L. Steinbacher, PhD, is among a new generation of scientists trying to improve their aim and approach to killing cancer cells. The assistant professor of chemistry/biochemistry is working to develop biomedical agents that more accurately target and attack tumors, in his lab at Canisius College.

“When cancer is treated with traditional chemotherapy the drug goes everywhere in the body with the hope that it reaches enough malignant cells to kill them,” explains Steinbacher. It’s a proven cancer treatment but chemotherapy also damages healthy cells and triggers debilitating side effects. Steinbacher’s research involves new, safer ways to deliver this life-saving therapy. “The idea it to package up chemotherapeutics inside microscopic nano-vehicles, which then go straight to the source of the diseased tissue,” says Steinbacher. “If we can do that, we can then deliver higher doses of the drug to just the tumor, and patients won’t suffer side effects or damage to healthy tissue.”

Steinbacher enlists the assistance of Canisius students in his research. There is a steep learning curve but well worth the effort for students interested in graduate school, he says.

“My goal is to teach students how to tackle a big problem and stick with it, how to deal with failure. I want them to understand what it means to think creatively and problem-solve to come up with viable solutions.”

These are the same research skills Steinbacher honed as a graduate student at Cornell University, and later as a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Vermont. But it is in the classrooms at Canisius where Steinbacher’s greatest breakthroughs take place. Teaching, he says, reminds him of a question once posed by the late astronomer and astrophysicist Carl Sagan. Sagan asked if knowing the inner workings – the biological makeup – of a rose makes the flower any less beautiful. “If anything, it makes it more beautiful because you understand what is going on at a very deep and cellular level. Teaching at Canisius gives me a chance to explain all those fundamental and beautiful parts of nature.”

One of 28 Jesuit universities in the nation, Canisius is the premier private university in Western New York.