Tune in to Focus Carolina during morning, noon and evening drive times and on the weekends to hear stories from faculty members at UNC and find out what ignites their passion for their work. Focus Carolina is an exclusive program on 97.9 The Hill WCHL, sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

At the UNC-Chapel Hill Eshelman School of Pharmacy and Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, Dr. Shawn Hingtgen and his team morph skin cells into stem cells that chase cancer and kill it. He’s working to create therapies to treat cancers in patients which are currently though to be untreatable. His ideas are bringing new approaches to personalized cancer therapies.

“The crazy idea is being able to create a whole new way to treat cancer really around harnessing the power of a stem cell. That trick that we use, which I guess was really the crazy, crazy idea, was that we could start with a skin punch so we can morph your skin into cell that actively seeks out and chases cancer.”

According to Dr. Hingtgen, this means that human patients are walking around with our own personalized cures for cancer.

A lot of Dr. Hingtgen’s work grew out of brain cancer, specifically Glioblastoma which is the most common primary brain tumor.

“Sadly, it remains one of the deadliest forms of cancer. It’s been in the news a lot. This was what recently took the life of John Mccain and so the challenge with brain cancer and specifically Glioblastoma is that it spreads through the brain, so it creates these kinds of invasive routes or fingers that are spread throughout your brain.”

Dr. Hingtgen arrived at UNC-Chapel Hill in 2012 and found unmatched collaboration at the university.

“We always joke that there’s not a single person at UNC we haven’t asked to collaborate with. It really, really is a interdisciplinary collaboration. My goal in coming here was always to create a product that translated to human patients where we can make an impact.”

Dr. Hingtgen says one of the most amazing things about North Carolina is that whenever they approach someone for a collaboration, the goal is always to work together.

“They’re all extremely willing to give their time and really give us thoughtful feedback. And that’s really powerful because again, it helps us go in the right direction, and ultimately get these to human patients better.”