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Angelo Accardo wins TU Delft Health Initiative Pilot Award

Wednesday, 13 May

hDMT researcher Angelo Accardo, expert in the area of Soft Micro- and Nano-system Technology for Life Sciences and Biology, received the TU Delft Health Initiative Pilot award. The pilot project deals with the development of standardized, reproducible and physiologically relevant 3D engineered cell microenvironments (3D Onco-Scaffolds) to be used as a benchmark tool for proton radiobiology. The results obtained from this project will pave the way for pre-treatment characterization and response assessment of cancerous and healthy tissues. This pilot study is carried out in close collaboration with the Holland Proton Therapy Center (HPTC), the cell laboratory facilities of HPTC partner institutions and the Erasmus MC Optical Imaging Centre.

Cancer is one of the principal causes of death worldwide, with 17 million new cases only in 2018. The therapies for treating this disease include surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, often in combination. But surgery is not always possible (especially in deep brain regions), chemotherapy has several toxic side-effects while in conventional radiotherapy, the X-ray beam does not kill only the cancer cells but also healthy ones. Indeed, after hitting the tumor, these energetic beams continue travelling and risk to damage neighboring healthy tissues.

A technique trying to overcome this limitation is Proton Beam Therapy (PBT) which is based on the use of heavy charged particles (protons). Compared to X-ray radiotherapy, PBT is able to release energy more precisely to the tumor, with less scattering to surrounding tissues. In such context, however, it is still controversial the role of proton irradiation on some specific cancer cells and its effect on healthy cells. One of the main reasons is the lack of a systematic study on the morphological and functional changes of the cells after being exposed, which cannot be routinely performed on patients or living tissues coming from biopsies.

To fill this gap, the creation of standardized, reproducible and physiologically relevant 3D engineered cell microenvironments (3D Onco-Scaffolds) are proposed to be used as a benchmark tool for proton Radiobiology. To achieve the goal of this project, Accardo will exploit his expertise in structuring biomaterials by using light. In particular, he will employ laser-assisted additive manufacturing techniques for the realization of scaffolds fostering the formation of 3D biomimetic networks of both healthy and cancer cells mimicking the features of the natural tissue. The scaffolds will be then employed for systematically characterizing the effect of proton radiation doses on cellular morphology and viability by using advanced imaging tools.

Source: TU Delft

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