Mission-driven sciences and technology advancing the security and well-being of the nation
People outside and even inside of the Lab are often surprised when they discover how capabilities developed at our Laboratory to support our national security mission have also advanced our understanding of cancer and carcinogens. Our research in this area has grown out of efforts started 60 years ago aimed at understanding how low-level radiation exposure affects humans.
Understanding radiation effects led to our work on the Human Genome Project, where we developed expertise in gene sequencing, along with an extensive gene database. This work positioned us to explore ways to apply our predictive modeling capabilities to study cancer biology, diagnostics, and therapeutics—work that was enabled by the initiation of President Obama’s Cancer Moonshot program in 2016.
Today, our cancer research spans multiple areas. For example, one team studies how cancer metastasizes to bones. Once this occurs, it can be much more challenging to treat the cancer. Another team is exploring the possibility of using biomimetic nanoparticles to combine immunotherapy with chemotherapeutics and improve treatment outcomes.
Many of our cancer researchers leverage the capabilities of LLNL’s National User Resource for Biological Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (bioAMS), including the unique ability to use isotopic tracers to precisely determine how humans metabolize carcinogens. Teams are applying the Lab’s bioAMS capabilities to study the pharmacokinetic profiles of new drug candidates, as well as how to improve chemotherapeutics via microdosing, which allows researchers to study compounds at ultra-low levels that are not toxic to humans. BioAMS is so sensitive that scientists can use it to measure the number of drug molecules that actually make it to a tumor in animal models.
Read about some of our latest collaborative cancer research, including:
The 2018 Computational Chemistry and Materials Science (CCMS) Summer Institute will have a special focus on “Quantum Materials and Chemistry” to highlight the science challenges and research opportunities in the development of novel materials for emerging energy and information technologies.
Materials and Chemistry Institute (MaCI) offers a unique summer internship experience. Interns have access to state-of-the-art facilities like the Nanoscale Synthesis and Characterization Laboratory, the Jupiter Laser Facility, the Energetic Materials Center, and the National Ignition Facility.
The mission of the Seaborg Institute is to facilitate the training of the next generation of nuclear scientists. This program offers graduate students the opportunity to work directly with leading LLNL researchers on projects in the areas of nuclear forensics, nuclear chemistry, and environmental radiochemistry.