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Bryan Smith, PhD

Associate Professor, Biomedical Engineering
Michigan State University
East Lansing, Michigan
American Association for Cancer Research

Current Research

  • Seeking to design rationally-engineered nanotherapies for treatment of triple negative breast cancer.
  • A nanoparticle drug delivery system that targets specific tumor-promoting immune cells is tested in laboratory models of triple negative breast cancer.
  • If successful, this study will enable rapid translation of a nanoparticle platform to benefit patients.

In order to grow and spread, tumors require help from neighboring cells and effectively recruit circulating cells, like immune cells, to the tumor bed. These cells help to provide the right environment to support tumor growth and invasion into local tissue. Certain types of immune cells called MDSCs also help to mask the tumors from the immune system by shutting down the normal anti-tumor immune response. Dr. Smith is working to develop a targeted therapy that will kill MDSCs and restore the anti-tumor immune response.

Full Research Summary

Our immune system continually surveils our bodies and eliminates most cancer cells before they become established tumors. Growing tumors, however, can suppress the immune system by recruiting immune cells called myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs). These specialized cells act to suppress the immune system, allowing the tumors to grow unimpeded and resist anti-cancer therapy. Targeting MDSCs is a compelling strategy to improve response to therapy and treatment outcomes.
Laboratory studies have shown that blocking MDSCs has a dramatic effect on response to anti-cancer drugs. Some of these strategies are being tested in clinical trials but are limited in their clinical efficacy due to side effects.
As part of his American Association of Cancer Research/BCRF award, Dr. Smith has developed a drug-loaded nanoparticle that releases a drug payload to kill MDSCs, while sparing healthy cells and preserving anti-cancer immunity. His laboratory experiments have shown that the system effectively targets the MDSCs. In the second part of his study, he will test the drug-loaded particles in laboratory models of triple negative breast cancer. 
This precise targeting of MDSCs could improve the clinical utility of this therapy and make it a viable strategy to improve the effectiveness of anti-cancer therapies.


Bryan R. Smith, PhD is an Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering within the Engineering School, and a member of the Institute for Quantitative Health Science and Engineering. His lab blends engineering, chemistry, biology, physics, and medicine to develop new imaging and therapeutic approaches. He is developing novel nanotechnology-based strategies to harness the power of the immune system, creating novel diagnostic imaging and therapeutic agents for diseases including cancer, atherosclerosis, and neurodegeneration. Recently, Dr. Smith moved to MSU from Stanford University.

Grid Researcher Headshot -  Smith Bryan

BCRF Investigator Since


Donor Recognition

The Hirschhorn Award in Honor of Susan B. Hirschhorn and in Memory of Her Mother Ellen S. Hirschhorn

Area(s) of Focus