Faculty Notes

Steinbacher Takes Aim at Cancer

BUFFALO, NY - Researchers used to take a shotgun approach to killing cancer cells but Jeremy L. Steinbacher, PhD, is working to improve its aim. The assistant professor of chemistry/biochemistry received a three-year, $136,500 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study biomedical agents that more accurately target and attack cancer cells.

“The toxicity of many drugs limits the amount that can be administered, especially for many chemotherapies used to treat cancer,” says Steinbacher. His research involves microscopic nano-vehicles, known as drug-delivery agents, which package up chemotherapeutics and deliver higher doses of the drug to just the tumor “so patients won’t suffer side effects or damage to healthy tissue.”

Such state-of-the-art drug-delivery agents also contain imaging agents, like a dye, to allow for the simultaneous pinpointing of diseased tissue and delivery to it. One imaging agent, minimally used to date, is fluorine magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Steinbacher plans to create a new class of MRI contrast agents to develop a combined drug-delivery and imaging agent.

“Given the limitations of traditional chemotherapies, many have predicted that the future of cancer treatments will lie with smart, multifunctional materials,” adds Steinbacher. “The development of new fluorine MRI contrast agents could open up an entirely new branch in the field that brings a host of advantages.”

Steinbacher will conduct his research alongside undergraduate students, in order to provide aspiring chemists with important training and collaboration opportunities.