Cancer treatment startups provide great opportunities for better interaction with patients: Iranian researcher

TEHRAN, Sep. 05 (MNA) – The young Iranian US-based academic Ali Mohammadabadi who is studying on the thermal and mechanical evaluation of Focused Ultrasound systems in cancer treatment and enhanced chemotherapeutic drugs delivery at the University of Maryland, believes that startups in the field of cancer treatment provide opportunities to better interact with and educate people in terms of new cancer detection techniques, care coordination platforms, smartphone-assisted medications, and also the treatment of cancers.

“I do not intend to define the fight against cancer as a business project, but there are various startups need brilliant ideas,” he said in an email interview with the Tehran Times. 

Unfortunately, many families in Iran have at least a few members who have had cancer. In addition, many others are concerned about cancer prevention and other health issues, he lamented.

“As a personal experience, I started my first startup in the field of new technologies (FuTech) nine years and currently developing a new startup to employ pulsed focused ultrasound (pFUS) and tumor-penetrating nanoparticles (TPNs) treatment for head and neck cancers,” he asserted. 
He named “Savor” as a simple and good example of new startups in the field of cancer which designs personalized nutrition profiles for cancer patients. 

In quest of better, more beautiful life  

Born and grew up in Neyshabur, Ali Mohammadabdi, 37, inspired by his father working in the railways. 

“There I'd got an idea of what I want my future career to be. I chose to be an engineer because I thought it would be a field that solves the world's biggest problems, like designing novel engines or creating clean energy,” he said.

“I received Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Mechanical Engineering from reputable universities in Iran and abroad. Mainly, I focused on designing new materials and developing novel non-destructive testing methods to evaluate their properties and durability,” he explained.

Nearly everyone experiences a turning point in the life which changes the purpose of life. For Ali, it was losing a loved one to cancer which was very difficult and painful for him.

Traveling around the world from China to the United States to find an approach which his expertise in engineering could help in the cancer treatment, Ali ends up in pursuing a PhD at the school of medicine at the University of Maryland, where he could combine his engineering background and biological sciences. 

“We had significant achievements in this field including several publications on the enhanced drug delivery, filed patents, innovatively designed components and the first Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved clinical trial to open Blood-Brain Barrier (BBB) using focused ultrasound that dramatically alters the landscape of drug delivery to the brain for many diseases such as tumors, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

Greater efficacy using TPNs 

“Depending on the type and stage of cancers, different treatment approaches are available, including surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. Conventional surgery for resection of the tumor core is still common practice, but advances in robotic and laser surgeries have allowed for a less invasive treatment of tumors. However, when tumors grow in less accessible locations, surgical intervention is limited. 

Radiotherapy is employed as an adjuvant treatment along with surgery and chemotherapy for locally advanced tumors. The toxicity of radiation is still a critical issue because of serious side-effects (e.g., chronic aspiration, xerostomia, hypothyroidism, and dysphagia). Concurrent chemotherapy-radiotherapy remains an effective part of a multimodality treatment approach for locally advanced cancers. Different chemotherapy agents, mainly cisplatin, have been used, but they have severe toxic-side effects which often limit their application,” he explained. Most standard chemotherapeutic drugs, including cisplatin, have shown (i) limited penetration in tumor tissue and (ii) rapid drug clearance, which necessitate higher doses to achieve even marginal cytotoxic effects, Mohammadabadi said.

Strategies that can provide well-dispersed, sustained concentrations of cisplatin locally in the tumor microenvironment, such as the use of targeted tumor-penetrating nanoparticles (TPNs) and adjuvant pretreatment with pulsed focused ultrasound (pFUS), could potentially have an impact on the clinical outcome for patients, he added.

“We could show that our proposed strategy of using TPNs compared to traditional cisplatin delivery platforms will allow for improved penetration and delivery of chemotherapeutic agents leading to greater efficacy and a reduction in toxicity compared to free cisplatin. 

This development in treating cancer will result in a large and rapidly increasing number of cancer survivors, he explained.

Treating cancer via interdisciplinary method 

“Cancer prevention and treatment are broad fields that cross various disciplines. In general, interdisciplinary studies promote the application of different theories, concepts, and ways of thinking about problems,” he said.

“In the case of cancer treatment using TPNs and pFUS, we will need medical science to plan and employ the treatment and also engineering background to design the working parameters and build the required TPNs and pFUS instruments. In addition, we need to consider the role of other interdisciplinary sciences such as statistics, computerized imaging and behavioral analysis in the pre and post-treatment interventions,” he added. 

Large-scale strategies needed 

“If we could examine the factors contributing to the possibility of novel cancer treatment in Iran, we will find out that most of these studies can be done in Iran. I believe the main obstacles against the growing of these techniques in our country are lack of self-confidence and teamwork,” he said.

“We also need to notice that the public investment in research and innovation is more important than ever because to do any kind of research, scientists need financial support which helps them to run studies, to pay their assistants and to subsidize lab equipment. We need large-scale and long-term strategies to create internationally booming research within the healthcare industry,” he said.

Ali Mohammadabdi concluded the interview with a quotation from the American businessman Ray Kroc (1902 – 1984) which is said “Luck is the dividend of sweat. The more you sweat, the luckier you get”.


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