IBB Seminar

"The Role of Matrix Stiffness in Esophageal Cancer: Mechanism to Translational Therapeutics" - Ricardo Cruz-Acuña, Ph.D. - Columbia University Irving Medical Center

A special seminar organized by IBB's Bioengineering Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in celebration of BioE Day.

Ricardo Cruz-Acuña, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Cancer Engineering
College of Dental Medicine
Columbia University Medical Center

Clinical studies have found a correlation between extracellular matrix (ECM) stiffening and the progression of esophageal adenocarcinoma (EAC), as well as reduced drug delivery and resistance to therapy. However, additional work is needed to elucidate underlying mechanisms of the disease in the context of changes in ECM biomechanics. In my talk, I will first describe the design of an engineered hydrogel as a 3D cancer organoid niche to elucidate the contribution of matrix stiffness on EAC progression. I will then show how we exploited the tunability of our engineered platform to identify potential matrix stiffness-activated therapeutic targets in patient-derived EAC organoids. Importantly, the modular nature of the engineered hydrogel platform allows for potential adaptation to the culture of 3D organoid models of other human diseases.

Ricardo Cruz-Acuña is an Assistant Professor of Cancer Engineering in the College of Dental Medicine at Columbia University Irving Medical Center. In his lab, Cruz-Acuña focuses on integrating aspects of biomaterial engineering, cell and molecular biology, and 3D organoid biology to (1) understand the contributions of the extracellular matrix properties to tumorigenesis, and (2) identify mechanisms important for epithelial developmental patterning and organogenesis. His work will help elucidate how cancer progresses within a dynamically evolving extracellular matrix that modulates every behavioral facet of the tumor cells, and will reveal novel mechanisms that drive human organ development.

Cruz-Acuña completed his Ph.D. in Bioengineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology under the supervision of Andrés J. García, Ph.D.. Cruz-Acuña then joined the laboratory of Anil K. Rustgi, Ph.D. at University of Pennsylvania and at the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center in Columbia University Irving Medical Center for his postdoctoral research training.

In addition to several awards he received during his training, Cruz-Acuña is the recipient of a NIH/NIDDK K01 Research Scientist Development Award (2023). He is a member of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) and the Society for Biomaterials (SFB).