Defects That Improve Cancer Research and Diagnosis


Investigating the roles of signaling pathways, secreted factors, and immunological components of tumor ecosystems promotes our understanding of the drivers of tumor progression and enables the development of better diagnostics and therapeutic interventions. New measurement technologies through nanoscale engineering can elucidate new insights into tumor ecosystems beyond conventional biochemical and omics-based methods. Fluorescent quantum defects, produced by covalent modifications of single-walled carbon nanotubes, elicit sensitive, bright, tunable emission bands. My studies found that these quantum defects can greatly expand nanosensor capabilities to improve our understanding of tumor ecosystems and develop diagnostic technologies. For improved diagnostics, we developed a quantum defect nanosensor array technology that, coupled with machine learning algorithms, can identify disease fingerprints of ovarian cancer from serum. To investigate disease processes, we developed nanosensors that enable the transient detection and spatial mapping of autophagy in vivo. I will explain how these sensor technologies can benefit bioanalytical research to facilitate biomarker discovery and drug development processes, and address questions in cancer biology.