What is it all about

“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.” ― Martin Luther King Jr

Cognizant of this, the Ngwa Lab is dedicated to pioneering and developing technologies for cancer treatment and with a focus on reducing healthcare inequalities

Vision

We have a dream that one day, cancer will be eradicated, and people of all socio-economic, racial, religious, geographic, and cultural backgrounds will have access to quality healthcare.

Approach

To realize this dream, we have adopted a transformative approach rooted in the values of creative agency and collaborative work embodied in the word UBUNTU. Popularized worldwide by Nobel Prize winners Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela, ubuntu signifies the idea that “I am because we are,” or human connectedness. This ethos rings particularly true in today’s world, where local health has become global health and vice versa. Based on this values, our approach, focuses on building collaborations to pioneer and develop technologies, and more effective approaches for cancer treatment that will eliminate health disparities, save lives.

Tiny Drones to Target Cancer

Tiny Drones to Target Cancer (TiDTaC) are 4G Nanotechnology/smart radiotherapy biomaterials designed to boost both local and metastatic tumor cell kill with minimal collateral damage to healthy tissue. Successful clinical translation of the technology could enable extending the use of radiotherapy to treatment of both local and metastatic disease. This would have major impact in reducing disparities, including for cancer patients in resource-poor settings who often present with metastatic disease

Investigating Phytomedicines for cancer, pain and anemia

Pain is a substantial public health issue, where it is estimated that about 100 million Americans need pain treatment. Opioids have been increasingly used to treat pain, with 50-90% of cancer patients needing such treatment. This has caused a concomitant rise in prescription opioid abuse and fatalities e.g. 42,249 drug fatalities in 2016 alone. Because of this, alternative treatment options are desperately needed, and more and more patients and doctors are looking to alternatives like cannabis for managing pain. The Tiny Drones to Target Cancer technology has been adapted with ongoing work to also deliver medical cannabis payloads precisely to address pain with minimal or no side effects typically associated with this. Isolated compounds from Justicia plants with high levels of hemoglobin are also being developed to address blood disorders like anemia, which affects up to 80% of cancer patients.

Focus on Cancer:

Why Focus on Cancer?

  • According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide, with over 18 million new cases and 9 million deaths a year. 
  • The WHO describes the growing cancer burden as alarming and a major obstacle to human development and well-being, with a growing annual economic cost of approximately 1.16 trillion US$. 
  • The report also highlights major global cancer disparities, with more than 60% of  new cases and 70% of  deaths per year occurring in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), some of which, sadly, are the least capable of dealing with cancer without some form of collaboration. 
  • These major disparities in cancer deaths are in part a reflection of poignant underlying disparities in radiation oncology services, where many poor-resource settings have no access to treatment. Where available, cancer treatments are often not accessible due to high cost.

What we are doing to address the growing global burden of cancer and associated disparities

  • Tiny Drones to Target Cancer (TiDTaC): The Ngwa Lab is focused on pioneering and developing new technologies and approaches to combat the rising scourge of cancer and disparities. In 2015, the prestigious BWH BRIght Futures Prize was awarded for our work developing “Tiny Drones to Target Cancer”. The technology consist of nanotechnology and smart radiotherapy biomaterials designed to extend radiotherapy to the treatment of both local and metastatic disease. Cancer  metastasis is responsible for over 90% of cancer deaths and this is predominant in resource-poor settings where patients often present with metastatic disease. The Tiny Drones to Target Cancer technology is designed to  enable both local and metastatic tumor kill and be accessible/affordable
  • Phytomedicine:  The TiDTaC technology, has been recently adapted to also deliver medical cannabis extracts precisely to disease sites with minimal or no systemic distribution. This approach has demonstrated therapeutic efficacy in cancer treatment with major potential of minimizing or eliminating any side effects typically associated with medical cannabis.  Recent work has also identified a Justicia plant species with major potential for treating blood disorders like anemia, which affects up to 80% of cancer patients.

Collaborations

  • Collaborations are key to our work, including cross-disciplinary collaborations with colleagues at BWH, DFCI, Harvard and other institutions. This includes working in a multi-center clinical research consortium with leading scientists/healthcare professionals towards clinical translation
  • The work on phytomedicines has resulted in the launch of an international phytomedicines institute (IPI) collaboration initiative involving collaborations with leading scientists and healthcare professionals at other institutions and industry partners. Learn more
  • Work towards reducing cancer health disparities has resulted in the launch of the Comprehensive Cancer Center in the Cloud (C4) collaboration initiative. Learn more