Developing Drugs to Treat Lymphedema and to Halt Cancer Progression Through the Lymphatic System

Tim Padera, PhD
Tim Padera, PhD
Rullo Family MGH Research Scholar 2021-2026
Department of Radiation Oncology, Massachusetts General Hospital
Associate Professor, Harvard Medical School

The lymphatic system—consisting of lymph nodes and lymphatic vessels—prevents tissue swelling and generates immune responses. The lymphatic system plays a critical role in many diseases, including cancer, lymphedema and infection.

There are nearly 10 million patients in the U.S. with lymphedema—a debilitating and devasting tissue swelling commonly in limbs—which is more than patients with multiple sclerosis, ALS, HIV and Alzheimer’s disease combined. Patients with lymphedema develop heart problems as well as difficult to treat infections that can cause death if they enter the blood. There is currently no cure for lymphedema, and despite the millions of patients in need of treatment, no FDA-approved drugs are indicated to improve lymphatic vessel function.

My research program is designed to address this unmet need. We will develop drugs to improve lymphatic function and provide treatments and cures for lymphedema patients.

Further, about 25% of all cancer patients (~425,000 annually U.S.) are initially diagnosed with lymph node metastasis. My research program studies how cancer cells use the lymphatic system to spread throughout the body and shut down anti-cancer immune responses. Our work will develop treatments to halt cancer progression and re-activate anticancer immunity to eradicate cancer from the body.