My name is Viraat Goel, and I’m a Bioengineering student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. This summer, I’ve had the privilege to work in Dr. Khalid Shah’s Center for Stem Cell Therapeutics and Imaging at Harvard Medical School under the mentorship of Dr. Clemens Reinshagen. The lab focuses on cell-based therapies for treating cancer, with a primary focus on treating glioblastoma, the most common type of malignant brain tumor in adults. With research intended to be translated for use in the clinic, the lab is situated in the Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s Neurosurgery department.
My project this summer focused on further exploring previous work done in the lab. In attempting to overcome the limitations of current cell-based therapies for cancer, the Shah lab previously showed that glioblastoma tumor cells themselves can be modified to act as cancer-killing agents. By engineering the tumor cells to secrete molecules capable of causing cancer cell death, altering the engineered tumor cells to be resistant to the secreted molecules, and implementing a kill switch into the engineered tumor cells, the lab reimagined how patient-tailored cell-based therapies could be created. Having successfully been tested in glioblastomas, this approach could be applied to other cancer types as well. Accordingly, I’m aiming to replicate the approach and its results in lung cancer and melanoma. If successful, this research would introduce a novel way to create cell therapies, whether for cancer or other diseases, and would give rise to exciting new research opportunities.