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Over 200 diverse faculty, trainees and industrial partners from across the U.S. attended the BAM for the Cure summit at the Tampa Airport Marriott.

By merging academic principles from engineering, biology, chemistry and other disciplines, bioengineering has become a growing area of cancer research that seeks to tackle complex challenges, such as drug delivery and drugging previously undruggable metabolic targets. In 2023, Moffitt Cancer Center launched its Bioengineering Department to help accelerate the discovery of cancer therapies and develop technology to enhance our research. Now, the cancer center is bringing together scientists, clinicians, and bioengineers nationwide to collaborate and share concepts and techniques that can help answer some of the more difficult cancer research questions.

photo of Dr. Robert Langer at a podium

Dr. Robert Langer gives the opening keynote talk at the BAM for the Cure summit kickoff reception.

Moffitt hosted its second annual BAM for the Cure summit last week in Tampa. The event focused on immuno-engineering, or how we engineer our immune systems to better fight cancer. Over three days, the summit included over 200 diverse faculty, trainees and industrial partners from across the U.S. The summit featured keynote speakers Dr. Robert Langer, David H. Koch Institute Professor at MIT, and Dr. James Mulé, associate center director for Translational Science at Moffitt.

“Our conference aims to provide a fresh perspective on how we study cancer. Cancer therapy often fails because it’s so nonspecific. It makes the patient sick because it’s systemic. So, being able to pinpoint therapies to the right place, we hope engineers can help us with that,” said Dr. Elsa Flores, associate center director of Basic Science at Moffitt.

image of Dr. James Mulé

Dr. James Mulé gives a keynote address on the first description of ectopic lymph nodes/tertiary lymphoid structure in solid tumors.

One session focused on advances in cell therapy and enhancing immunity. Earlier this month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte therapy, or TIL, for advanced melanoma patients whose disease progressed on other targeted therapies. For this therapy, immune cells are removed from tumors and grown by the billions in the lab. Dr. Shari Pilon-Thomas posed the question, “How can we improve it?” Moffitt is working to enhance TIL growth and improve the timing of its delivery.

Additional sessions focused on drug delivery, such as using a hydrogel form of chemotherapy that can be sprayed directly on a tumor, and vaccine technology, including encapsulating biological structures to be the right size to complement what is already occurring inside the body, making it easier to hit the correct target and have the optimal effect.

“Our hope is the presentations heard throughout the three days will inspire new ideas and collaborations to further cancer research,” Flores said.