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Peyton Profiled in UMass Amherst Video Series

Shelly Peyton

Shelly Peyton

Professor Shelly Peyton of the Chemical Engineering Department is the subject of a video in the UMass Amherst Video Profile Series, which offers firsthand accounts “of how UMass Amherst has been a transformative force in the lives of those who study, do research, and teach here.” As the UMass profile introduces her, “Shelly Peyton is fighting cancer on every front. In her quest to stop cancer-related deaths, Shelly has brought together a team of UMass Amherst chemical engineers and biologists to learn how breast cancer spreads to other tissues.”

The website for the video profiles explains that “These are the inspirational stories of students, faculty, and alumni who are having a positive impact across Massachusetts and around the world.”

As the head of the Peyton Research Group, Peyton says that “We are several women and men, engineers and biologists, and our mission is to learn how cells process information from their chemical and physical tissue environment. We design polymeric biomaterials to create models of human tissue and use them to study how cells move, grow, and respond to drugs in different tissue environments. We use this approach to find new ways to stop cancer metastasis, discover more effective cancer drugs, prevent heart disease, and build scaffolds for regenerative medicine.”

In her UMass profile, Peyton explains that “I run a lab in chemical engineering where we're using tissue engineering approaches to study cancer in a new way. So we build microenvironments using polymer chemistry, biomaterials techniques to build little microdisease models. Bone marrow, brain, and lung. We're trying to find new ways to understand why breast cancer metastasizes or spreads through these tissues and to find new ways to stop that metastatic spread.”

Peyton goes on the explain that breast cancer metastasis accounts for 90% of breast cancer related deaths. “So if we can find a way to cure that aspect,” she says, “we'll save a lot of lives.”

Her team of chemical engineers works with researchers in the biological sciences to build these micro tissues. “It's amazing to see the drive and determination between these engineers and biologists to try to find a cure for metastatic breast cancer,” says Peyton, “and that's what keeps me up at night. I'm excited to come to the lab very early every morning. I'm excited to stay late because I know that this research is going to lead to breakthroughs in breast cancer.”

Since 2012, Peyton has accumulated a host of important honors, including: the Cellular and Molecular Bioengineering Young Innovator Award (2015); a prestigious National Science Foundation CAREER Award (2015-2020); the UMass Award for Outstanding Accomplishments in Research and Creative Activity (2014); a UMass College of Engineering Barbara and Joseph Goldstein Outstanding Junior Faculty Award (2014); the National Institutes of Health New Innovator Award (2013-2018); Pew Biomedical Scholar (2013-2017); the Barry and Afsaneh Siadat Career Development Fellow (2012-2017); and a Society for Physical Regulation of Cell Biology Rising Star Award (2012). (November 2018)

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