Dr. Andrew Minchinton Laboratory is working to address multiple key topics in cancer research. One such area is how the tumour microenvironment can influence the effectiveness of treatments like radiation and chemotherapy. The tumour microenvironment refers to the area occupied by a given collection of tumour cells and all its surrounding cells, vessels, and supporting structures. This microenvironment can have a significant impact not only on how rapidly a tumour can grow and whether it can spread to other parts of the body, but also on whether a given treatment will be effective. For example, the relative amount and arrangement of blood vessels associated with a tumour can affect how chemotherapy targeting that tumour is delivered – and how effective it will ultimately be in killing cancer cells. Dr. Minchinton’s group has developed tools to analyze how effective this delivery is for different drugs in different cancer types.
“Hypoxia” refers generally to a lack of oxygen and can be observed in tumours that are growing so quickly that they are exhausting their oxygen supply. Interestingly, tumour cells that are hypoxic can have relatively lower responsiveness to chemotherapy or radiation. Dr. Minchinton’s group has developed ways to measure tumour oxygen levels and is devising new drugs that can be applied to work against tumour hypoxia and thus increase the effectiveness of radiation and chemotherapy treatments.
To address the above cancer research topics, Dr. Minchinton’s team also developed new models of the tumour microenvironment that can be evaluated in a lab setting. These models are three dimensional in nature and can be used to measure changes in the concentration of cellular oxygen or anticancer drugs (thus determining how effectively a given drug is distributed across an entire collection of tumour cells).
The combination of these tools and expertise make the Minchinton lab world leaders in the field of radiation biology research.