Brainstorming in Brussels (18th Nov 2019)

Monday the 18th marked the start of our two-day meeting in the lovely (if freezing cold) city of Brussels, Belgium. The EVO-NANO team met at the UK Research Office on Rue du Trone, which kindly provided a full board room for the big group. The Monday session opened up with addressing the questions and future directions of the project.

Discussions started on the next lot of deliverables, where the combination of experimental data with the computational models was a big topic. The computational models will soon allow us to simulate tumour growth, and vascularisation, while zooming into tiny parts of the tumour tissue to simulate where nanocarriers distribute. Tying in the in vitro and in vivo data will play a major role improving the accuracy.

The microfluidics team showed off their methods for creating novel semi-circular channels for mimicking vascular tubules, and the analytical methods they use. Their next device will model the stresses of positive pressure in the tumour (caused by the growth of a tumour) on the extravasation of and tissue penetration of nanoparticles.

Lots of discussion then occurred between the biologists and physical chemists in the room, hashing out how the drugs and fluorescent labels will be loaded onto the nanocarriers, and how detectable they can be. Mechanisms and interactions are extremely important in how drugs get transported and delivered all the way from their point of entry to the point of action. The aim of all the questions was to further the next stages of research, and find out what each team needs from the others to move forward on the overall project goals.

The summary points of the upcoming research goals were how particle sizes affect their biodistribution and activity, with multiple parameters needing to be analyzed (extravasation, penetration, cellular uptake and action, etc.) and how each drug candidate will behave. A big back-and-forth came up as to which side of the project needs to ramp up first; the consensus was the best option was the computational side to produce the maximum volume of work, before cherry-picking the best candidates for in vitro validation. There are also exciting existing datasets (e.g. tumour histology) that could be used to inform the computational models, which is another good way to make the simulations more and more realistic.