Shelly Peyton of the Chemical Engineering Department had her research on breast cancer and metastasis featured in an article by Mike Fillon in the news section of the March 14 website posting of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. As the article noted, “A chemical engineer at the University of Massachusetts Amherst believes a different approach is needed for understanding breast cancer and metastasis, one based more on engineering than traditional medical research disciplines. Shelly Peyton, Ph.D., has been awarded a three-year, $590,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to do just that: to study how various types of breast cancer interact with different human tissues – tissues she and her research team can create in the laboratory.” Read the whole article: oxfordjournals.org+html.

Peyton actually engineers authentic replicas of brain, bone, lung, and other tissues in her lab and will use them to develop personalized drugs to block breast cancer from spreading. Her lab is the only one in the world employing this promising new method.

As Fillon’s article continued, “Peyton said by studying how, where, and why breast cancer metastasizes, she hopes to develop patient-specific therapies that can attack the cancer as it tries to seek out and colonize these diverse tissues.”

The article also explained that Peyton said the goals of her research are to unravel the questions about which type of cancer moves to each type of tissue and to find a way to stop the spread of the disease.

“The critical question for me is where does it go and why,” Peyton said in the article. “We think there are some mechanical relationships there, but we don’t know what they are yet.”

In the article, Jacob Scott, M.D., from the Department of Radiation Oncology and Integrative Mathematical Oncology at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Fla., said he thinks Peyton may be onto something. “I think this research represents a rational next step forward that will definitely serve to advance our knowledge of metastasis,” said Scott. “Bringing more physical science–oriented investigators to the fray in our war on cancer brings with it fresh insights that would not otherwise be represented. By using state-of-the-art techniques in tissue engineering, Peyton will be able to deconvolute the otherwise dizzying complexity inherent in the study of metastasis.” (March 2013)