My Personal Commitment to Cancer Research: a Lemonade Story
My aunt and uncle became my legal guardians and parents when I was four years old. As my parents, they taught me that when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. The summer after I completed my B.S. in physics changed my life and career path forever. My aunt announced that she had cancer and would rather die than experience the harsh side effects of chemotherapy and radiation treatments. While being her caretaker, I got the idea to use my background in lasers and optics to develop a laser-focused treatment for cancer that would not have those harsh side effects. A few months later, my aunt died from cervical cancer. After that, my uncle was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. When his doctors told him that he only had a few months to live, he decided to proceed with the chemotherapy and radiation treatments, which took him to the brink of death. His fingernails and toenails turned black. He not only lost all of his hair, eyelashes, and eyebrows, he also lost his taste, appetite, and cognitive and digestive functions as well as 150 pounds. It was a devastating experience for both of us. I took time away from graduate school to care for him, and he eventually recovered. This was a time in my life that would qualify as “lemons,” with both of my parents’ version of tragedy and triumph with cancer. I knew there had to be a better way. Inspired by patient-parents and the desire to eliminate suffering, I have been on a mission to develop a minimally-invasive laser-based cancer treatment ever since.
I began pursuing my Ph.D. in the Department of Physics at The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) as an opportunity to develop this treatment. My dissertation committee chair allowed me to pursue my own research interests, instead of working on one of his projects, because of the fellowships I secured to support my educational expenses. As a result, I pioneered a partnership between the Departments of Physics and Pathology and the Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB with the help of two of my current mentors. With their support, I independently executed all aspects of targeting, imaging, and therapy of malignant tumors, from project conception to reduction to practice. This project involved biocompatible nanoparticle fabrication and characterization, antibody conjugation chemistry, fluorescent labeling, and imaging. It also included cell culture propagation, humane animal experiments, optical design, performance of in vitro and in vivo laser treatments, immunohistochemistry, data analysis, and quality assurance.
Finally, after many hours and years of hard work and studying, I obtained promising results. I developed a technique which resulted in ~100% tumor reduction in mice after a single treatment. I also designed a minimally-invasive 3-in-1 multi-functional system to target, image, and treat tumors in mice, resulting in 40% tumor reduction after a single treatment. Even though the multifunctional platform is a work in progress, the preliminary data suggest that this is a viable avenue to optimize and develop.
My lemons-to-lemonade story is almost complete. As a physicist, I have over ten years of interdisciplinary research experience, predominantly in the application of nanotechnology and photonics to targeting and treating tumors. The innovative techniques I developed have been filed with the U. S. Patent and Trademark Office by UAB. I am named the lead inventor on the patent application. My goal is to OWN the rights to the technology I developed and I have been working with a well-established law firm to represent my interest in this process. I was recently awarded ~$1 million to further develop this research but that funding CANNOT be used to pay for patent attorney fees. I have done my best so far but now I need your help. I am not a fundraiser but I need your help paying patent attorneys (in $10,000 increments, with an estimated total of ~$100,000) to prosecute and secure my ownership rights of the pending-patent. I sincerely want to help cancer patients who are suffering and my ownership will protect this from those who want to exploit this for money. Please help me as soon as possible. If and when this lemon-inspired therapy demonstrates efficacy in human cancer patients without the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation treatments, I will have made the best lemonade of all.
To read more about me, please see the links to recent articles and interviews below: