Dr. Cohen's research portfolio includes clinical research, innovation biodesign, and basic/translational research, and he has a NIH-funded laboratory. His research efforts cover clinical optimization, telehealth implementation and growth strategies, cancer drug development, nanoparticle drug delivery systems, novel identification methods for circulating tumor cells, and regenerative medicine/tissue engineering. He studies head and neck cancer, melanoma, breast cancer, thyroid cancer, adrenal cancer, colon cancer, pediatric cancers (neuroblastomas and glioblastomas), and lung cancer in the lab.
Key laboratory projects include:
- Developing methods to more effectively treat locally advanced cancers through nanoparticle drug-delivery techniques. Using nanoscopic carrier molecules, Dr. Cohen and collaborators have developed new ways to deliver chemotherapeutics more effectively to primary cancers and their draining lymph nodes while lowering toxicity. These nanoconjugate drugs are being developed as novel sustained-release treatment strategies to complete pre-clinical proof-of-concept studies, so that they can be translated further into future clinical trials for benefit in several types of cancers.
- Developing novel highly selective, highly potent cancer therapies from natural products including withanolide drugs isolated from the Physalis longifolia plant, which have been shown to be highly effective treatments against melanomas, breast cancer, thyroid cancer, colon cancer, glioblastomas, neuroblastomas, leukemias, lung cancers, and head and neck cancers. These drugs also target cancer stem cell function and decrease tumor invasion and aggressiveness in preclinical models.
- Translationally developing a novel class of potent targeted anticancer drug compounds that selectively inhibit the cancer cell regulatory function of the HSP90 molecular chaperone and its heterochaperone complex. Through team science, this has led to a new class of C-terminal Hsp90 inhibitors, the first isoform-selective Hsp90 inhibitors, and inhibitors of the F1Fo ATPase. These new drug compounds are being translated into in vivo models showing superior efficacy over standard treatments. They also have the unique ability to overcome targeted therapy resistance pathways as an improved strategy for clinical applications in thyroid cancer, head and neck squamous cell cancer, breast cancer, melanoma, colon cancer, and adrenal cancer.
- Through novel adaptation of photo-acoustic imaging, the Cohen Lab is using a unique device that can accurately and selectively identify and separate out melanoma circulating tumor cells from the blood so they can be used to improve the accuracy of staging patients without the need for surgical biopsy, detect recurrent or metastatic disease several months before it is able to be seen with standard imaging techniques, and better follow response to therapy including real-time ability to evaluate tumor biology for development and activation of resistance pathways.
- With collaborators in Plastic Surgery at Michigan Medicine and Pharmaceutical Chemistry at the University of Kansas, the Cohen Lab has developed a novel biomaterial of hyaluronic acid crosslinked with deferoxamine that accelerates the time it takes for bone fractures to heal but also dramatically improves the healing or “union” rate of fragile bone fractures (from age, radiation, or osteoporosis). This biomaterial is being investigated in the laboratory for a number of potential clinical applications in regenerative medicine, implants/bone grafts, as well as anticancer therapy.
The Cohen Lab has made some recent breakthroughs in tissue engineering to create proprietary functional, implantable, thyroid organoids as a novel durable cure for hypothyroidism. This is being optimized and translated in the laboratory for future clinical applications.
Dr. Cohen’s research has been funded by the Susan G. Komen Foundation, the American Cancer Society, the National Institute of Health (including three R-01 grants from the National Cancer Institute), NASA, and private companies, foundations, and donors.