Jenny Munson, Ph.D.
Tracking fluid flow to understand cancer, aging and women’s health
How does the pace of fluid flow affect tumor spread and memory loss?
In the Munson Lab, we study the tumor microenvironment in cancers, including glioblastoma, the deadliest form of brain cancer. Our research focuses on the emerging research area of fluid flow. Cancer’s invasion of the brain follows distinctive routes that correlate with interstitial and bulk flow pathways. In brain cancer, fluid flow increases between cells within the tissue, specifically across the invasive edge of the tumor where cells are prone to both interact with the surrounding brain tissue and to evade localized, transport-limited therapies. We believe fluid flow can alter how a tumor responds to drug therapies. Not only is fluid flow important in cancer, but also is a contributor to normal function in tissues and other diseases. To this end, we are translating many of our methods and hypotheses to understand the role of fluid flow in immunity, aging, and women's health.
Our methods combine in vivo imaging methodology with in vitro tissue engineered models to examine the role of interstitial fluid flow and the cellular components of the microenvironment in cancer progression and treatment. We use patient-derived cells to create personalized models of disease to test hypotheses related to fluid and tissue transport in tumors and the brain and to identify new drug targets and treatment approaches.
Our goal is to find new targets in the tissue microenvironment by examining cancer and disease in the proper context, which includes dynamic fluid flows, multiple cell types, and patient-specific parameterization. By including the proper tissue environment, we believe that we can better identify underlying causes and contributors to disease and thus be better able to target and test new drugs for patients.
- Associate Professor, Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC
- Associate Professor, Department of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics, College of Engineering
- Co-Director, Virginia Tech Cancer Research Alliance
Colleen T. Curley, Brian P. Mead, Karina Negron , Namho Kim, William J. Garrison, G. Wilson Miller, Kathryn M. Kingsmore, E. Andrew Thim, Ji Song, Jennifer M. Munson, Alexander L. Klibanov, Jung Soo Suk, Justin Hanes, Richard J. Price. (2020). Augmentation of brain tumor interstitial flow via focused ultrasound promotes brain-penetrating nanoparticle dispersion and transfection. Science Advances.
R. Chase Cornelison, Caroline E. Brennan, Kathryn M. Kingsmore & Jennifer M. Munson. (2018). Convective forces increase CXCR4-dependent glioblastoma cell invasion in GL261 murine model. Scientific Reports.
Kathryn M. Kingsmore, Andrea Vaccar, Daniel Abler, Sophia X. Cui, Frederick H. Epstein, Russell C. Rockne, Scott T. Acton, and Jennifer M. Munson. (2018). MRI analysis to map interstitial flow in the brain tumor microenvironment. APL Bioengineering.
Assistant Professor, Department of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics, College of Engineering
Institute for Critical and Applied Science, Virginia Tech
Center for Engineered Health, Virginia Tech
University of Virginia
Assistant Professor, Department of Biomedical Engineering, School of Medicine, School of Engineering and Applied Science
Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL)
Whitaker International Postdoctoral Fellowship, Whitaker Foundation
- Ph.D., Georgia Tech, Bioengineering
- B.S., Tulane University, Chemical Engineering and Neuroscience
- Dean's Excellence Seminar Speaker, Cornell University, 2019
- Leader in Research, Department of Biomedical Engineering & Mechanics, 2019
- Dean's Award Outstanding New Assistant Professor, College of Engineering, Virginia Tech, 2019
- Young Innovator Award, Journal of Cellular and Molecular Bioengineering, 2017
- Rita Schaffer Young Investigator Award, Biomedical Engineering Society, 2016
- Whitaker International Scholar, Whitaker Foundation, 2011
- Fulbright Scholar, U.S. Department of State, 2009
- National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, National Science Foundation, 2007
Article ItemVirginia Tech scientists see fluid flow as potential key to fight Alzheimer's disease , article
The National Institute on Aging, part of the National Institutes of Health, has awarded Jennifer Munson, associate professor at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC, and a team of Virginia Tech scientists $3.57 million to test the impact of fluid flow in the brain on development of Alzheimer's disease.Date: May 18, 2021
Article ItemScientists from Virginia Tech, City of Hope aim to improve therapy for deadly brain cancer , article
Researchers at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC and City of Hope believe the complex way fluid flows through glioblastoma tumors holds the key to improving the success of CAR-T cell therapy in treating the cancer and helping more patients survive.Date: Apr 28, 2021
Article ItemTracking fluid flow in tumors, tissues drives new Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC scientist , article
Jennifer Munson is a biomedical engineer and one of a handful of scientists examining how interstitial flow – the flow of fluids in the spaces surrounding cells within human tissues – can aggravate cancers, accelerate Alzheimer’s disease, and effectively deliver drugs. She joined the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute’s primary faculty team this summer.Date: Jan 01, 2021
Article ItemVirginia Tech scientists, engineers to talk about steps to stop cancer in virtual public session , article
A year ago, Virginia Tech united its biomedical and technical expertise into a Cancer Research Alliance to take on the second leading cause of death in the United States. Now, scientists and engineers will talk about some leading-edge projects in breast cancer, brain cancer, and noninvasive cancer treatments in a public Zoom discussion at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 10.Date: Nov 02, 2020
Article ItemFluid flow in the brain: Sorting the good and the bad , article
Ian Kimbrough, an assistant professor in the School of Neuroscience, and Jennifer Munson, an assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics, are taking research learned from brain tumors to help fight Alzheimer’s.Date: Sep 23, 2020
Article ItemResearcher receives NIH grant to study noninvasive treatment for metastatic breast tumors , article
The aim of this project is to develop a novel, noninvasive method that combines nanoparticles with ultrasound to selectively target and kill cancerous cells in the breast tissue.Date: Aug 27, 2020
Article ItemNew drug application stops spread of brain cancer cells caused by clinical treatment approach , article
This work is part of a five-year research grant project across multiple universities, examining the role of interstitial fluid flow in the spread of brain cancer cells.Date: Nov 19, 2018
Article ItemCollaborative grant takes on brain cancer cell invasion , article
A relatively unexplored area of cancer research, interstitial fluid flow, or the movement of fluid around and through the three-dimensional space surrounding cells, has been shown to lead to an increase in cancer cell invasion. However, the mechanisms of how and why that happens, particularly in cases of brain cancer, are still unknown.Date: Feb 01, 2018
Article ItemDoctoral student receives international NSF award to study blood vessels’ role in oxygen delivery , article
Cora Esparza, a third-year doctoral student in biomedical engineering, is driven by work that fills a need, and she does this in her research. She has received a National Science Foundation IIE-Graduate International Research Experience award to pursue her research abroad.Date: Aug 20, 2021
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