Stanford Cancer Institute

SCI Women’s Cancer Center Innovation Award

March 2024

Carolyn Bertozzi, PhD, Baker Family Director of Sarafan ChEM-H, Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor in the School of Humanities and Sciences, received an SCI Women’s Cancer Center Innovation Award for her proposal entitled “Engineering target receptors to boost efficacy of antibody-drug conjugate therapy.” Bertozzi studies the roles of cell surface carbohydrates (sugar molecules) in health and disease. She received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2022 for inventing bioorthogonal chemistry, a type of chemistry that can be performed within living organisms without interfering with biological systems. Bioorthogonal chemistry has countless applications in research and medicine.

Antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) are a new way to treat cancer by specifically targeting cancer cells, leading to fewer side effects compared to traditional chemotherapy. In simple terms, ADCs are like 'smart bombs' that find cancer cells and deliver a powerful drug to destroy them, while sparing nearby normal cells. ADCs can do that because the antibody component of the drug binds to specific receptors (proteins) that are only expressed on cancer cells. Some patients, however, don't respond well to this treatment due to certain challenges like loss of target receptors on cancer cells. With the support of the SCI Women’s Cancer Center Innovation Award, Bertozzi will introduce a new method to make ADCs work better by adding a 'smart receptor' to cancer cells. This receptor acts like a beacon guiding ADCs into the tumor cells, ensuring the drug reaches its intended cellular destination. This work aims to boost the effectiveness of ADCs, aiming to help more patients fight cancer effectively and safely.

March 2024 SCI Innovation Awardee Bertozzi