Charles Kelly – Phenotypic Alterations in Cancer Cells Induced by Mechanochemical Disruption

Funds provided by Newcomb-Tulane College allowed the Biomedical Acoustics Lab at Tulane to use animal models as way to evaluate our method of mechanochemical disruption for treating cancer tumors. The goal of these experiments was to allow undergraduate researchers to get experience working with animal models and potentially support results observed in vitro. These experiments used mice which were transfected with Prostate Cancer tumors via cutaneous injection to create xenograft models. In order to transfect the mice, the team received training in handling animals and performing injections. Before experiments could happen, every researcher needed to complete a course and examination from IACUC on small animals. Then, the team had to create detailed protocols that were in keeping with IACUC standards. Once these were approved, the team was able to apply their knowledge of cell culture, because transfection required a large population of cells. After the mice were injected, the researchers monitored them for about 5 weeks, measuring their tumors and weighing the mice to see which would successfully form tumors. There was a good level of successful transfection with over 75% of mice forming tumors. After this, the researchers were supposed to inject some of the tumors with mild doses of anti-cancer drug and then some tumors with and without the drugs would be ablated via High Intensity Focused Ultrasound. Unfortunately, after the drugs were injected, an amplifier which is necessary to power the HIFU became non-functional. The Biomedical Acoustics Lab tried to quickly locate a replacement, but it arrived after too many mice were euphonized obtain reliable results.  The remaining mice were still injected with anticancer drugs and treated with High Intensity Focused Ultrasound so that undergraduates could gain experience with the protocols for these procedures. For the duration of these experiments, researchers had been weighing the mice and measuring their tumors every two days. Even though the results did not give any concrete support to our therapy in question, the data collected on the tumor growth of the mice can be referenced as a comparison for future experiments to help determine the proper time for treatment application. Undergraduate researchers also got exposure to small animal models. They might want to use these skills for future experiments because small animal models are an essential step for validation and publication around new tumor treatments like mechanochemical disruption. Thanks to Newcomb-Tulane College for supporting us in gaining this valuable experience. It should empower us to conduct impactful research that could improve the lives of many people suffering from cancer.

Written by Charles Kelly, recipient of a combined Dean’s Grant and Cummings Grant as a research group leader, 2018-2019