Nano-based drugs, Precision medicine
I study the nano-bio interface in order to more effectively translate nanotherapeutics into the oncology clinic. As a pediatric oncologist, I am committed to developing more effective, less toxic therapies.
The field of cancer nanomedicine is advancing at an exciting pace, with technologies now in place to deliver a wide range of precision therapies such as small molecules, biologics, and nucleic acids. But despite thousands of publications each year, only a handful of nanomaterials have made an impact in the clinic to date. The factors behind this 'translational gap' are complex, and addressing it will require intentional, coordinated efforts from physicians and researchers across many disciplines.
Research in the Straehla laboratory is focused at the intersection of nanotechnology and systems biology with the ultimate goal of accelerating cancer nanomedicine translation. Two particular areas of focus are identifying nanoparticle-specific biomarkers and tackling challenging biologic barriers.
Leveraging large omics datasets, we are shedding light on how biologic systems interact with nanomaterials. This work has led to the identification of candidate biomarkers with the potential to distinguish cancer patients more likely to benefit from nanotherapies. We also have a particular interest in pediatric brain and spinal cord tumors given the significant drug delivery challenges in this population. We have developed new tools to study trafficking across the formidable blood-brain barrier and are using these to speed the translation of targeted nanotherapies.
Joelle Straehla is a pediatric oncologist at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, an Instructor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, and a Charles W. (1955) and Jennifer C. Johnson Clinical Investigator at MIT's Koch Institute. She received her MD from Northwestern University in 2013, and in 2016 completed a residency in pediatrics at the University of Washington. In 2017, during her fellowship in pediatric hematology/oncology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Straehla joined Paula Hammond's lab at the Koch Institute as a postdoctoral fellow, focusing her research on nanotechnology-based drug delivery platforms. She is board certified in general pediatrics and pediatric hematology/oncology, and her clinical practice is focused on the care of children with tumors of the brain and spinal cord.