Kathleen DelGiorno, PhD, MD
Department of Cell and Developmental Biology
Dr. Kathy DelGiorno is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology at Vanderbilt University. She is an Air Force veteran and a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy where she studied Biology. She has a Master’s degree in Pharmacy from the University of Florida and received her Ph.D. in Molecular Genetics and Microbiology from Stony Brook University. She completed her Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, conducting pancreatic cancer research. She has over 14 years of experience in this field and her program at Vanderbilt combines various RNA-sequencing approaches with ultrastructural microscopy and genetically engineered mouse models to understand pancreatic tumor formation and progression. In collaboration with Dr. Nidhi Jyotsana, a Bioengineer and Research Assistant Professor in her laboratory, she is studying the use of lipid nanoparticle encased RNA therapies for the treatment of pancreatic cancer.
Nearly all cases of pancreatic cancer are caused by mutation of the KRAS gene. KRAS mutations alter many cellular functions, including metabolism. Recently, blocking uptake of cystine by metabolite transporter SLC7A11 has been shown to efficiently kill pancreatic cancer cells. With the help of the Sky Foundation, Dr. DelGiorno, an expert in pancreatic tumorigenesis, and Dr. Nidhi Jyotsana, a Bioengineer and cancer biologist, are combining RNA targeting strategies and biocompatible lipid nanoparticles to directly target KRAS and SLC7A11 gene expression. While there has been hesitancy employing RNA-based therapies in the past, they have now been shown to be safe and effective in the clinic. Over the last year, lipid nanoparticle-RNA technology has come of age, with the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine, based on this technology, being administered to >150 million Americans. Our goal is to develop safe, effective LNP-RNA strategies for pancreatic cancer patients.