Published July 6, 2021
Robert M. Straubinger, PhD, has received a Fulbright Scholar Award, one of the most widely recognized and prestigious scholarships in the world.
Straubinger, a University at Buffalo Distinguished Professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, will travel to Belfast, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom for the 2021-22 academic year, where he will hold the Fulbright-Queen’s University Belfast Visiting Professorship. His project is to develop nanotechnology approaches and bio-inspired therapeutic agents to improve treatment of fatal cancers, specifically pancreatic adenocarcinoma.
The Fulbright program, coordinated by the U.S. Department of State, is devoted to improving intercultural relations, diplomacy and knowledge between the people of the U.S. and other nations through educational exchange.
Pancreatic adenocarcinoma (PDAC) will soon become the 2nd leading cause of cancer death. Straubinger will spend six months at the Patrick G. Johnston Centre for Cancer Research at Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) collaborating with scientists there to develop new leads for clinical trials for this highly fatal cancer.
Treatment resistance of PDAC stems largely from the fact that it mutates to adapt and survive with a very limited blood supply (poor perfusion), in a low-oxygen, low-nutrient environment. PDAC tumors also produce abundant connective tissue. This combination of poor blood perfusion and a dense tissue barrier enables the cancer cells to survive chemotherapy and spread. Furthermore, the anatomical location of PDAC often makes surgery impossible and radiation too toxic to organs to be effective.
Straubinger has been developing sequenced drug treatment strategies that weaken the PDAC drug delivery barrier and then delivers a cancer-killing treatment during the period of susceptibility.
“This visit to QUB will provide an opportunity for sustained interaction with colleagues and potential collaborators, during which we will build an expanded sphere of research into novel PDAC treatments,” Straubinger says.
Straubinger's research focuses on both delivery mechanisms to optimize treatment of difficult-to-access solid cancer tumors, and nanoparticle carriers to exploit temporary breaches in the tumor drug delivery barrier. This work draws heavily on predictive mathematical modeling of cancer therapeutics to understand mechanisms involved in tumor progression and responses to therapy, and how to employ novel nanoparticulate drugs and antibody-targeted therapies.
More recently, his research has emphasized treatments impacting pancreatic cancer, where he obtained five years of support from the National Institutes of Health and funding agencies in the UK and Ireland to lead a three-nation collaborative research project “Tumor priming sequences combined with novel nanoparticle drug carriers for enhanced therapeutic efficacy in pancreatic cancer," with overall funding of $4.8 million. Research partners are QUB and the National Institute for Cellular Biotechnology, located at Dublin City University in the Republic of Ireland.
He has been a member of the American Association for Cancer Research for over 40 years and the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists since 1989. His research has resulted in publication of 94 articles in high-impact journals along with 11 review articles or book chapters. He also has nine patents and technology disclosures.
An accomplished teacher, Straubinger has mentored over 10 visiting scientists, 10 post-doctoral fellows, 14 PhD students, 20 MS students, 15 PharmD students, and more than 20 undergraduates. He serves on numerous departmental and university committees, as well as editorial and scientific advisory boards, is a scientific manuscript reviewer, and regularly participates in NIH grant review committees. He has also been an invited lecturer at many national and international meetings.
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