Prabhu Ramamoorthy, Ph.D.
Research Assistant Professor
My main research focus is on creating a new culture model to support the cancer researcher to study basic cancer biology and treatment. There is a common question, "Why do we need a new culture model to study cancer?" A significant hindrance to the discovery of new cancer therapies is that current in vitro and in vivo animal screening methods are poorly predictive of the clinical efficacy and safety of drug candidates. Hence, there is a high failure rate in clinical trials, with more than 50% due to insufficient efficacy but more importantly almost 20% due to toxicity. In addition, there is an ethical dilemma with testing toxicity profiles in animals, especially small ones such as mice and rats. Therefore, the goal of my study is to develop an in vitro system that would be better than the current testing methods and may be even eliminated animal testing. With the guidance of Dr. Shrikant Anant, I explore to create a novel cell culture model called "Tumor in a Dish" (TiD). This model will help us to study various aspect of cancer problems, like tumor microenvironment and cancer prevention.
In this regard, we have now developed a novel three-dimensional cultures system termed "Tumor in a Dish" (TiD), which mimics the in vivo-like tumor microenvironment. The model provides cell-cell contact, architecture, and influence of different types of cells in the tumor microenvironment. The model is amenable to testing approved chemotherapeutic agents and novel investigational compounds. My main focus in this project is, i) to identify the effective drug for the cancer patient, personalized medicine and ii) to create a new model to study various cancer-specific treatment using patient-derived cells using 2D vs 3D (single cell type spheroids) vs TiD.
Hsp90 inhibitor project: Breast cancer is the second leading cause of death for women. Within breast cancer subtypes, those classified as Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC) exhibit dismal survival rates due to their propensity to develop distant metastases. Heat shock protein 90 (Hsp90) is a molecular chaperone that aids in the folding and maturation of various proteins involved in breast cancer progression and resistance to therapy. My research focus is to elucidate whether the two natural inhibitors of Hsp90, celastrol and triptolide, inhibit triple negative breast cancer growth. This project mainly focuses on the effects of Hsp90 inhibitors on triple negative breast cancer: i) BRCA1 as a target for TNBC and ii) Notch as a therapeutic target for stem cells.