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BREAKING BARRIERS: BLOOD-BRAIN BARRIER PARADIGMS IN BRAIN METASTASES OF LUNG CANCER
A multitude of neurologic diseases are increasing in patients that both diminish quality and quantity of life. My dissertation research focused on unraveling the blood-brain barrier’s alterations (BBB), primarily in lung cancer brain metastases, the most common brain metastasis in patients. We optimized a reliable and reproducible mouse model for creating brain metastases using patient derived brain seeking cells of non-small lung cancer (NSCLC) using ultrasound-guided intracardiac injection. I then evaluated brain tissue with qualitative and quantitative immunofluorescence for individual components of the BBB. Using this experimental method, I was able to identify the specific shift of each BBB component over time in NSCLC brain metastases. I then used human brain metastases specimens to demonstrate the clinical relevance of my findings. These results show distinct alterations in the BBB, which have the potential for targeting therapeutic delivery to extend patient survival. I was also able to characterize a novel epithelial-mesenchymal (EMT) phenotype in vertebral metastases of NSCLC in our model, with features similar to those seen in human patients. Most recently, I analyzed patterns of paracellular permeability associated with each BBB component of NSCLC brain metastases which may provide direct passageways for therapeutic delivery. Altogether, this research offered foundational evidence for the future development of targeted novel therapeutics, including nanoparticles. Outside of the brain metastases field, we used an experimental framework to successfully characterize the BBB alterations in a traumatic brain injury model (bTBI). These findings provided the first description of this unique pathology and the framework for developing therapeutics in other neurologic diseases. Although my research work has focused on animal models of disease, future directions based on my research work include the developing a novel 3D BBB-on-chip device to enable high throughput novel therapeutic delivery through the BBB. Long-term, identifying targetable alterations in the restrictive BBB using in vitro and in vivo models provides a potential conduit for effective prevention and treatment of a myriad of neurologic diseases to prolong patient survival and quality of life.