Cancer on a chip: From new technologies and basic science to 
translational medicine

Wednesday, November 8th, 2017 at 11:00am
Johnson Center, Room C

Dr. Nitin Agrawal
Department of Bioengineering,
George Mason University

Despite the medical advancements of the 21st century, cancer has 
remained a formidable disease exceeding 8 million annual deaths 
worldwide.  Due to heterogeneity of cancer cells from patient to 
patient, and their adaptability to hostile microenvironments (e.g. low 
oxygen or ‘hypoxic’ conditions), it is incredibly difficult to develop a 
universal anticancer approach for a broad population. These challenges 
highlight the need to better understand cell functions and develop new 
technologies for personalized medicine.

Hypoxia alters cellular metabolism and leads to acquisition of drug 
resistance and metastatic progression. In most solid tumors, these 
hypoxic conditions exist as gradients of oxygen with the tumor core 
being most hypoxic due lack of vascularization. In the m-SCALE 
(Microfluidic Single Cell Analysis Laboratory in Engineering) group, we 
have developed a novel lab-on-a-chip strategy to establish linear 
gradients of dissolved oxygen and study cancer cell behavior under 
biomimetic conditions. We have also identified a novel molecular 
mechanism, that regulates transformation of breast epithelial cells to 
stem-like phenotypes, necessary for metastasis.  The focus of our 
research revolves around breast and brain cancers as model disease 
systems. In addition to the above projects, we are also concentrating 
our efforts towards developing liposome based immunological techniques 
to engineer cytotoxic T lymphocytes for increased efficacy against cancer.

In this seminar, development and functionality of the microfluidic 
hypoxia platform as well as its utility to explore cellular responses in 
real-time will be demonstrated. In addition, the unique capability to 
establish overlapping hypoxia and drug gradients and the potential for 
personalized diagnostics and treatments will be discussed.

_Biography_: Dr. Nitin Agrawal is an Assistant Professor in the 
Department of Bioengineering at George Mason University. He received his 
PhD in Chemical Engineering from Texas A&M University in 2006 and 
Postdoctoral training from Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts 
General Hospital in the field of Bioengineering in 2009. He worked at 
the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory for 2.5 years before joining 
GMU. Dr. Agrawal’s research spans across three critical scientific 
areas: i) Development of chip based technologies for disease diagnostics 
and therapies, (ii) Fundamental understanding of the molecular 
mechanisms of cancer, and (iii) Translation of lab-on-a-chip 
technologies for clinical and personalized medicine. His research is 
supported by multiple NSF awards in the areas of nanobiosensing, and 
biomanufacturing of therapeutic cells. He has authored/co-authored 20 
peer reviewed journal articles and several refereed conference articles.

Besides research, Dr. Agrawal has served on multiple NSF review panels. 
He is also actively involved in student mentoring at all levels and was 
nominated for the OSCAR mentoring excellence award in 2017 at GMU.


Stephen G. Nash
Senior Associate Dean
Volgenau School of Engineering
George Mason University
Nguyen Engineering Building, Room 2500
Mailstop 5C8
Fairfax, VA 22030

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Phone: (703) 993-1505
Fax: (703) 993-1633