Engineering Future Medicines: Liz Wayne on cancer immunotherapies

Dear Real Scientists community, thank you for being with us this year. We hope you enjoyed meeting at least 52 new scientists, trekking the land of ice and fire with NASA scientists, our first Black History Month celebration and so many excellent scientists.

 

We’d love to introduce you to our final curator for 2018 and our first curator for 2019, the estimable Dr Elizabeth (Liz) Wayne (@LizWaynePhD): TED Fellow, biomedical engineer, Women in STEM advocate and science communicator. Dr Wayne will helps us ring in the New Year and talk to us about some of the hottest fields in science right now: cancer immunotherapies and nanotechnology. image1

 

Liz began her professional career pursuing a degree in physics at the University of Pennsylvania as a Ronald E. McNair Scholar and Moelis Access Science Scholar. She completed her PhD in biomedical engineering at Cornell University. She’s currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Liz can cover all kinds of angles in science with this broad training from physics to biology and engineering skills. So why did Liz end up in science?

Science was the coolest subject ever when I was 11 and I’m really hard-headed/persistent. I started with a love of physics and just let the questions lead me into new directions. I started by building microscopes to look at cancer and found the immune cells really interesting in cancer. Then I realized immune cells might be really great at delivering drugs to cancer but I didn’t know much about drug delivery. Now I work on ways to use immune cells to deliver therapies to treat solid tumors.”

Dr Wayne’s cancer immunology work is a little different from the therapies you may have read about in the press. Instead of using T-cells, she uses another kind of cell that’s part of the immune system – macrophages.

Our immune system presents the most extensive therapeutic delivery system that we possess. Nanoparticles alone cannot none surpass the natural ability of immune cells to penetrate difficult barriers such as the blood brain barrier, to reach past the fibrotic perimeter of a tumor, the ability to actively migrate and accumulate in diseased regions which is particularly useful in the turbulent and filtering environment of the bloodstream. The field of cell-based therapies is just emerging and spans multiple disciplines: immunology, drug delivery, biomaterials, and cancer. THE GOAL OF MY RESEARCH IS TO USE NANOMEDICINE TO MANIPULATE THE NATURAL BEHAVIOR OF IMMUNE CELLS FOR DELIVERY OF THERAPEUTICS DELIVERY. I use macrophages a specialized cell found in nearly every organ, to delivery therapeutics to solid tumors.

 

Dr Wayne says about treating cancer:

“Everyone takes drugs—wait I should explain that more. When people are sick, they take medicine in the hopes of feeling better. My work is about making drug delivery more effective, efficient, and increasing our ability to make sure the right people get the right medication.”

In addition to her work as a researcher and activist for Women in STEM, Liz does some science communication work:

I co-host the PhDivas Podcast with my friend Dr. Xine Yao.

And on her days off?

I have binge hobbies. Like, I get really into things for a few weeks and then move on. Recently, I started making my own jewellery, or painting, and knitting.  I love naps. My ideal day off lets me take an afternoon nap in the sunlight.

 

Who amongst us does not love a nap in the sunlight? Please welcome the amazing Dr Liz to Real Scientists! Happy New Year!

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