Hello Everyone! In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month, we are focusing our topics this week on Breast Cancer in respect to our fields. I think this is great because you get to see how one topic can be approached differently within STEM. This week, I'll be giving a couple examples of how engineers are working towards understanding and treatin Breast Cancer.
Debra Auguste, a chemical engineering professor at Northeastern University (also a fellow black women engineer) noticed that African American women suffered from the highest mortality rates from breast cancer than any other demographic of women. Through her studies, she was able to design drug delivery vehicles that recognize two or more proteins to deliver drugs and prevent cancers from spreading. Through her research she also found that the most common form of Breast Cancer among African American women is triple negative breast cancer meaning that all three proteins in the cancer cells are negative. This cancer is the most aggressive and the hardest to treat. Auguste hopes to be able to identify at least two of the proteins to anchor the drug delivery vehicles and effectively treat the triple negative cancer cells.
Engineers at Harvard University have also concluded that the micro-environment of breast tissue can best determine one's risk of breast cancer. David J. Mooney and his research team were able to isolate the mechanical and biological variables that can drive breast tissue into a dangerously invasive mode turning the tissue cells from benign to malignant. While stiff breast tissue doesn't necessarily mean you're going to get breast cancer, it does open doors to begin working towards finding a treatment given a specific cause which can than transfer to other organs in the body.
While clear progress is being made to further advance treatments in Breast Cancer, it dosen't change the fact that Breast Cancer is the second deadliest cancer for women after lung cancer. Personally, I am passionate and very interested in women's health, a topic that is often overlooked and not talked about as much as it should be. By talking about it, we spread awareness normalizing an issue that should already be normalized because no women is alone in the fight. Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a reminder that we should all join together to continue pressing forward.
I hope these two examples give you insight in how engineers work to treat breast cancer. I can't wait to see how things advance over the next few years. - The Engineer