USM Polymer Research Group Studies New Cancer Treatment

USM Polymer Research Group Studies New Cancer Treatment (Image 1)

HATTIESBURG, Miss. – For the Savin research group at Southern Miss’ Polymer Science Center, improving cancer treatment is a study, but for one student, it’s also improving a parent’s quality of life.

Two and half years ago Ashley Johnson, a research graduate student, heard the news that her mom was diagnosed with multiple myeloma cancer.

“Although I had been working on this project for a couple years before that, it really hit home with me,” Johnson said.


the way cancer changes the life of a loved one made it an even more special project for Ashley. Under the direction of Dr. Daniel Savin, her dedication to the research is growing each day.

Ashley says her mom is anxious to try out new treatments.

“She asks all the time when she’s gonna be able to use it,” says Johnson.

The group’s goal is to create a drug that will target specific cancer cells, instead of affecting the entire body’s organ systems.

“It’s not like trying to find a needle in a hay stack. It’s like trying to find a piece of hay in a hay stack, and then burn that particular piece of hay, is what it’s like to try to get cancer,” said Greg Strange, a PhD student in the School of Polymers.

Dr. Savin, the group’s director, says they’ve developed a kind of nano-sized capsule that they can fill with a drug. Once the capsule reaches a certain pH level in the body, it is expected to flip inside out. Treating the specific cancerous tumor, and bypassing other organs that don’t need the drug.

“We think the approach is gonna be universal to any type of drug we might want to use and also universal to different types of cancers,” said Savin.

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