Wayne said through studying imaging, cancer and metastasis, she became interested in drug delivery and how immune cells already found in the body could might be used as a drug delivery technique for metastasized cancer.
“I like to say that who knew the best delivery vehicle we have wouldn’t be an Uber or a Lyft, but an immune cell,” Wayne said.
At the conference, she will explain how attaching drug particles to immune cells could be the most effective way to transport drugs through the body. This could potentially cure cancer and stop metastasis — the spread of cancer that causes most deaths from the disease.
“Immune cells are already able to go across the blood-brain barrier, which drugs have a hard time doing,” she said. “They can go through tumors, they are found in tumors — and so for me, this seemed like a pretty neat idea.”
Wayne said as a graduate student, she worked on making drug particles that would bind to immune cells, target the cancer cells and go into the tumor. She found that using the cells was more efficient, increasing circulation time of the drug and reducing the amount of metastases.
Alexander Kabanov, Wayne’s mentor in the pharmacy school and director of UNC’s Center for Nanotechnology in Drug Delivery, said Wayne is very skilled in her area of research. Kabanov also directs the T32 program, which is funded by the National Institutes of Health.
“I am the director and essentially the founder of this program, so I am happy for the program and the ability for Liz to excel,” Kabanov said. “But more so I am happy as a mentor. I am very proud of her; I wish her success.”
Shoham Arad, TED Fellows deputy director, said the TED Fellows program seeks out young innovators who demonstrate both exceptional achievement and strength of character.
She said they are excited to have Wayne discuss her breakthrough research on cancer therapy.
“Her science is innovative and the work she does outside of the lab is equally important,” she said. “She is working on making the science community better, not just the science itself.”