From the Outside In

With convergence across disciplines so embedded in our culture, solutions can come from unexpected collaborations that you may not find elsewhere. For instance, brain tumor treatment options can be greatly enhanced when a neurosurgeon joins forces with a pharmaceutical scientist.

Tumors known as glioblastomas are notoriously difficult to treat, with fewer than 10 percent of patients surviving five years. Through collaborations with Matt Ewend, M.D., who leads UNC Lineberger’s neuro-oncology group, UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy’s Shawn Hingtgen, Ph.D., knew that these patients needed a different form of treatment to fight off this particularly virulent cancer.

Building on existing stem cell technology, Dr. Hingtgen and his team of researchers re-engineered ordinary skin cells into extraordinary cancer-hunting stem cells that, paired with an anti-cancer drug, can destroy the small cancerous tendrils that surgery often leaves behind. Through novel research and engineering, he reprograms skin cells into therapeutic agents, a first in the treatment of cancer.

The Eshelman Institute for Innovation is made possible by a $100 million gift from Fred Eshelman to accelerate the creation and development of ideas leading to discoveries and transformative changes in education, research and health care. To learn more about the EII’s impact, visit

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