Dr. Jeff Comer

Department: Anatomy & Physiology
Departmental Website

Feature story in JCRC's 2020 Conquest magazine

Conventional drugs can help solve many problems, ranging from headaches to life-threatening infections. But when it comes to cancer, the available drugs have severe limitations, often damaging healthy cells as well as cancer cells, causing burdensome side effects and limiting the strength of safe doses. However, new technology has emerged that is overcoming these limitations. Nanotechnology refers to our rapidly growing ability to build complex structures of sizes comparable to proteins and DNA (the molecules that make the human body work), which is giving us new avenues to fight cancer, especially by delivering cancer drugs to cancer cells specifically. We now have a huge amount of freedom in designing nanotechnology to deliver drugs (nanocarriers), but we don't know what materials and designs will perform best in the body and target cancer cells. For this reason, I use computers to test different nanocarrier designs and understand how these nanocarriers interact with anti-cancer drugs and parts of the human body, such as the blood proteins and cell membranes. This allows other cancer researchers to focus on nanocarriers that computer calculations have shown are most likely to be safe, strongly hold the anti-cancer drug, and pass through the cell membranes of cancer cells.