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A Microscale mesh that wraps around brain tumours
"At the beginning, I was working on finding a solution to improve the therapy for cancer,” says Daniele Di Mascolo1, a researcher at the Italian Institute of Technology in Genoa. “I was working on glioblastoma [GBM], but it's a very aggressive type of cancer with no practical solution for patients.” This form of brain cancer has a very poor prognosis: the survival rate for people with GBM is 18% after two years, and just 5% after five years2.
Daniele Di Mascolo
Di Mascolo started as a biologist working on human genetics, with a focus on degenerative diseases, particularly Alzheimer’s disease. “But I realised that maybe we need something more to try to help people, and I understood that maybe biology alone was not sufficient,” he says, “so I started a PhD in biomedical engineering.” He began working on drug delivery systems, but then moved away from neurodegenerative disease to focus on cancer. He credits his varied scientific background with providing a strong basis for devising new medical applications. “I strongly believe that we need more of that, more combinations of different disciplines,” he says. “You lose a little bit of deep understanding – you cannot be an expert in cell biology, molecular biology, nanofabrication, pharmacology – but it can help you in collecting ideas and proposing new solutions.”
He thinks that having a broader picture of any field is useful when trying to solve a problem, since sometimes a step-by-step approach is not enough. And he reckons the first move for any would-be inventor should be talking with the people who are grappling with the problem on the ground. “Talking with a clinician, for instance, in the biomedical research field should be the first thing [you do] to understand the problems with current treatments,” he says. “And then maybe you can think of something that can be helpful with the things that you know how to do.”