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.
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. So breast cancer metastasis accounts for 90% of breast cancer related deaths. So if we can find a way to cure that aspect, we'll save a lot of lives. UMass has this great institute for applied life sciences where they're trying to combine some of the basic science techniques and approaches with more translational goals to do this kinds of research. I work mostly with chemical engineers, so these are students that are very well trained in this quantitative background, computational, theoretical techniques. They want to be able to apply their quantitative background to these biological questions. And I also have students in my lab with a cancer biology background that are not too afraid of the engineers. That can use that background 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, 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. I'm Shelly Peyton. I'm an associate professor of chemical engineering. I stand for training the future generation of engineers, and I stand for UMass.