MIE Distinguished Seminar Series: Bacteria-Based Autonomous Drug Delivery Agents for Cancer Therapy

Friday, January 26, 2018

Mechanical Engineering Building, MC102
5 King's College Road

Speaker: Bahareh Behkam
Affiliation: Virginia Tech


Systemic chemotherapy is currently the major therapeutic approach for nearly all types and stages of cancer. Current cancer chemotherapies largely rely on passive mechanisms to control the transport of drugs and semi-passive means to control specificity (detection and binding to the target tissue) and release rates. This often leads to systemic exposure to toxic chemotherapeutics, limited penetration of the drug in poorly vascularized regions of primary tumors, and in turn limited efficacy. By contrast, engineered bacteria have been shown to safely accumulate in cancerous tissue with high selectivity, effectively penetrate in poorly vascularized regions of tumors, and treat cancers that are not responsive to standard chemotherapy. However, clinical success in immunocompetent hosts has been rare due to insufficient tumor colonization by bacteria. We hypothesized that a combinatorial therapy approach based on integrating live attenuated tumor-targeting bacteria with chemotherapeutics-loaded nanoparticles will amplify the therapeutic potential of both modalities. Thus, we have developed a Nanoscale Bacteria-Enabled Drug Delivery System (NanoBEADS) in which the functional capabilities of Salmonella Typhimurium bacteria as intelligent “cargo” carriers are interfaced with and augmented by chemotherapeutic-loaded PLGA nanoparticles. I will discuss our work in biomanufacturing of NanoBEADS and investigation of their intracellular invasion and intratumoral penetration efficacy, compared to nanoparticle vectors. I will also describe our theoretical and experimental work on utilizing synthetic biology methods to develop a distributed network of NanoBEADS that communicate among themselves and with their immediate environment, and function as an intelligent, reconfigurable, and adaptable swarm for controlled and targeted in-situ drug-delivery.


Prof. Bahareh Behkam earned her B.Sc. degree from Sharif University of Technology, and her M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees from Carnegie Mellon University, all in Mechanical Engineering. She is an associate professor of Mechanical Engineering with affiliate appointments in the School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences and the Macromolecules Innovation Institute at Virginia Tech. Dr. Behkam is the director of the MicroN BASE Laboratory at Virginia Tech. Her research expertise is in micro/nanoscale systems engineering, with a focus on biomedical applications. She was a recipient of the Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering Outstanding New Assistant Professor Award in 2012 and the National Science Foundation CAREER award in 2015. Her research work has been awarded the 2012 Adhesion Society Peeble Award, the 2013 ASME-NEMB Aline Best Paper Award, and 2014 ASME-NEMB Best Poser Award. She is an associate editor for the Journal of Micro-Bio Robotics.

© 2021 Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering