Kaspar Haume

Development of new modules for ATK code for modeling radiosensitizing nanoagents

Affiliation: The Open University
Email: kaspar.haume@open.ac.uk
Supervisors: Nigel Mason (The Open University), Andrey Solov’yov (MBN Research Center), Jim Hague (The Open University)
Co-supervisor: Kurt Stokbro (QuantumWise)

Project description

My project is about simulating the interaction between nanoparticles, radiation, and biological matter to get a better understanding of what goes on at the nanoscale during cancer treatment.

Nanomedicine is a new and exciting field aimed at delivering a more precise treatment with fewer side effects. One method is by filling hollow nanoparticles with medicine, and then injecting them into the bloodstream. By clever bioengineering, the nanoparticles can be made such that they dissolve and deliver their cargo (the medicine) only at the right place, thereby minimizing side effects.

In the ARGENT project, we are looking at nanoparticles which have a lethal effect on cancer cells by themselves, or nanoparticles which increase the lethal effect of radiation - a common way of treating cancer. Nanoparticles that have this property are called "radiosensitizing".

It has been established that nanoparticles made of certain materials, such as gold, platinum, or gadolinium, have this effect, but it is still not clearly understood exactly what happens when the nanoparticles work. It is also not clearly understood how one can guide the nanoparticles to the right place in the body. One of the main goals of the ARGENT project is to uncover these processes such that the treatment can be optimized, and specifically, the Nanodosimetry group is devoted to this study.

One of the reasons why it is difficult to understand how the nanoparticles work to increase the efficiency of cancer treatment is that it takes place on the molecular level which is in general too small to study with microscopes and other conventional techniques. This is where my project comes into the picture. Using simulations, the goal is to be able to reveal the governing mechanisms behind radiosensitization.
Another important aspect of my project is to study how to guide the nanoparticles to the right place is the body. In general, bare, metal nanoparticles are toxic to the body, so they are usually covered in organic molecules such as proteins, antibodies, or sugars (this is called the "coating"). The optimal coating is not well understood, again partly due to the small size of the nanoparticles. This is something that can be studied with simulations, and hopefully I will be able to answer some of the questions.

My project aims to increase the understanding of exactly why the nanoparticles are aiding the cancer treatment. Simulations can help in this understanding because it is much easier to control the parameters of the nanoparticles than it is when doing a real experiment.
Through advanced simulations and cooperation with experimental groups in this project, hopefully we will be able to design nanoparticles for better cancer therapy.

Short CV

2012-2013: Purdue University, USA, Research Assistant (Klimeck Group), did my Master's Thesis here
2012- 2014: DTU, MSc in Physics and Nanotechnology
Work experience:
2013-2014: QuantumWise, Student assistant
2013-2014: DTU, Teaching assistant, Physics 1