ResearchUAB Department of Surgery Research Associate and member of the Chen Lab Jason Whitt, Ph.D., and Chair Herbert Chen, M.D., FACS, in partnership with the UAB Department of Biomedical Engineering, have won a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) one-year grant in the amount of over $240K.

Current therapies for neuroendocrine tumors are only able to address the symptoms associated with the disease and only marginally increase progression free survival. Surgery is the only cure, but complete resections are not always possible.

Their project, “Targeted Exosome-Associated AAV-Mediated Gene Therapy to Eliminate Metastatic Neuroendocrine Cancers” seeks to use the somatostatin receptor commonly overexpressed in cancer cells to introduce genes that will selectively eliminate neuroendocrine tumors with minimal side effects. The team of researchers will evaluate the efficacy in a metastatic animal model, developed by Chen and Department of Surgery Assistant Professor Renata Jaskula-Sztul, Ph.D., in the hopes that it will eventually lead to a clinical trial.

The grant is sponsored by the National Cancer Institute under the National Institutes of Health.  Whitt and Chen will collaborate with Drs. Margaret Liu and Lufang Zhou in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. Chen is proud of the team working on the grant.

“Cross-departmental collaboration brings together invaluable ideas and world-class researchers,” said Chen. “We are always looking for ways to improve patient experience and outcome in the Department of Surgery and the Division of Breast and Endocrine Surgery. This feat to find alternatives to surgical treatment of neuroendocrine tumors is one to be proud of.”