About Student Research

Caroline D. Doherty (2022-present)

Screening trillions of folded DNAs for toxin delivery to tumors

A native of Sacramento and a former professional ballerina, Caroline Doherty graduated with a biochemistry degree from Georgetown University in 2019. Following this, she entered the joint M.D-Ph.D. Program of Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine and Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.

Current research is focused on treatments for glioblastoma (GBM), a deadly brain tumor with few opportunities for cure. This unmet challenge in oncology inspires new therapeutic concepts for delivering cell-killing toxins more specifically from the circulation across the blood-brain barrier to tumor cells. In collaboration with the Translational Neuro-Oncology Lab of radiation oncologist Jann N. Sarkaria, M.D., at Mayo Clinic, the Maher lab is testing the novel idea that libraries of trillions of random DNA sequences folded into unique shapes may contain ideal molecules to meet this delivery challenge.

While traditional DNA aptamer selections have focused on creating affinity reagents, Caroline's collaborative work in the Maher and Sarkaria labs focuses on in vivo selection and amplification of DNAs capable of homing to GBM tumors. Such molecules are selected for this homing ability while simultaneously conjugated to tumor-killing toxins. New strategies are being devised to reward molecules capable of delivering toxins to appropriate subcellular compartments.