Tuskegee physicist secures $1.1M grant to research cancer treatment system

Published: Jan. 16, 2016 at 3:59 AM CST|Updated: Mar. 26, 2016 at 3:39 PM CDT
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TUSKEGEE, AL (WSFA) - Early detection and proper treatment can mean the difference between life and death for those battling cancer. With a recent grant in hand Tuskegee University researchers are hoping to help find ways to increase the chances of survival for those fighting against this disease.

Dr. Hadiyah-Nicole Green is an assistant professor of physics at Tuskegee University and the principal investigator for this research project. She knows all to well the wrath of cancer. Right after graduating from college her aunt received the devastating diagnosis.

"She refused the treatment. She wanted to die on her own terms. She didn't want to experience the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation. I was her caregiver during her transition," Dr. Green recalled.

Three months after losing her aunt, Green was forced to face off against the disease yet again.

"After she made her transition, my uncle was diagnosed with cancer. He went through chemotherapy and I was his caregiver." Green said.

Over the past 10 years Green has used this loss along with her expertise in physics as fuel in developing what could be a revolutionary treatment. The Veterans Administration HBCU-Research Scientist Training Program Career Development Award has awarded Green a $1.1 million grant to work on a patent-pending 3-in-1-platform technology to target, image, and treat cancer.

The treatment utilizes laser-activated and tumor-targeted nanoparticles to treat tumors in a manner that is more localized and less devastating than chemotherapy and radiation.

"The laser by itself is harmless," Dr. Green says. "The nanoparticles by itself is not toxic. Only when they work together will you have the effect that causes cell death. In that platform it is minimally invasive."

The research will be done in collaboration with the Birmingham Veterans Administration Medical Center and the VA Rehabilitation Research and Development Services. Also undergraduate and graduate students will have the opportunity to assist with the research.

"I developed several platforms for the therapy. One is a local therapy demonstrates approximately 100 percent tumor regression after a single 10 minute period in a mouse model. And the other uses a more sophisticated platform," said Green. "This work isn't about me it is about the people who need it. Its a huge responsibility and it is a lot of work ahead of me"

Green's ultimate goal is to see it taken to clinical trials and become a viable option for cancer patients.

She graduated from Alabama A&M University with a Bachelor of Science degree in physics and a minor in mathematics in 2003. She received her doctorate in physics from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

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