Katherine W. Ferrara, Ph.D.

AIMBE College of Fellows Class of 2004
For pioneering contributions to ultra sound imaging and the development of contrast agents, and leadership in biomedical engineering education.

“Microbubbles” and ultrasound bombard cancer cells in mice

Via Stanford University | May 14, 2020

In the lab of Katherine Ferrara, PhD, bubbles spell trouble for cancer cells in mice — and maybe one day for humans, too.

Specifically, Ferrara, a Stanford Medicine professor of radiology, is using “microbubbles” to damage the structure of cancer cells and cause them to die. The tiny gas-filled spheres are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and are typically used to enhance vasculature imaging in patients. However, Ferrara and her team have repurposed them for a new type of targeted cancer therapy guided by ultrasound.

The new treatment platform is designed to deliver a one-two punch. First, the microbubbles attack cancer cells, then an additional therapeutic agent, such as a gene, beckons immune cells to further pummel the tumor… Continue reading.

4 Innovative Women Engineers Tell Their Stories

Via UC Davis | June 22, 2016

For National Women in Engineering Day June 23, meet four UC Davis College of Engineering faculty who are breaking new ground in areas as diverse as using medical imaging for gene delivery to designing platforms for data collection.

Katherine Whittaker Ferrara, distinguished professor of biomedical engineering

How did you get interested in engineering?

My dad was an early biomedical engineer who worked on the development of a heart pacemaker and the first left-ventricular assist device. As a teenager, I loved physics but became a physical therapist due to the desire to directly impact patient health. In my 20s, I lost a child of my own, in part due to a difficulty in making a diagnosis at that time, and became interested in creating techniques — such as biomedical imaging — to speed diagnosis.

Tell us about your research

We work on the development of methods to deliver drugs and genes under the guidance of medical imaging. We use all forms of medical imaging and interventional techniques to enhance delivery. We also synthesize unique drug carriers.

What excites you most about your work?

We find that we can greatly enhance drug delivery — 50 fold in some cases — and by combining drug therapy and immunotherapy we see the potential to treat, and in some cases cure, difficult cancers.

Fatty Acid Metabolite Shows Promise Against Cancer in Mice

Via UC Davis Medical Center | April 2, 2013

UC Davis discovery demonstrates mechanism in dietary omega-3 fatty acids (fish oils)

A team of UC Davis scientists has found that a product resulting from a metabolized omega-3 fatty acid helps combat cancer by cutting off the supply of oxygen and nutrients that fuel tumor growth and spread of the disease.

The scientists report their discovery in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The groundbreaking study was a collaboration among multiple UC Davis laboratories and Harvard University.

The metabolite is epoxy docosapentaenoic acid (EDP), an endogenous compound produced by the human body from the omega-3 fatty acid named docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which is found in fish oil and breast milk. In animal studies, the UC Davis scientists found that EDP inhibits angiogenesis, the formation of new blood vessels in the body.

Katherine Ferrara Receives the Highest IEEE-UFFCS Award

Via UC Davis Biomedical Engineering | October 12, 2012

Katherine Ferrara, Professor of Biomedical Engineering, received the IEEE-UFFCS  Achievement Award on October 8 at the  IEEE-UFFCS  (Ultrasonic Ferroelectric and Frequency Control Society) annual meeting in Dresden, Germany. The Achievement Award is the highest Society-wide award presented to a member in special recognition of outstanding contributions. Selection criteria include significant technical publications in the field of ultrasonics, ferroelectrics, or frequency control, as well as contributions to these technical fields, and service to the Society.

Ferrara and Cherry Receive RISE Awards

Via UC Davis Biomedical Engineering | July 16, 2012

UC Davis Biomedical Engineering professors Katherine Ferrara and Simon Cherry have received funding through the Office of Research’s “Research Investments in the Sciences and Engineering (RISE)” program. RISE is a new program to support interdisciplinary research at UC Davis that will lead to new knowledge and technologies that will attract large-scale funding from federal, state, foundation, corporate or other private sources. Of the twelve projects chosen for a RISE Award, six have involvement of Biomedical Engineering faculty.

Dr. Ferrara received funding to develop the “Center for Content Rich Evaluation of Therapeutic Efficacy (cCRETE)”. cCRETE will address the critical need for better tools to identify and screen promising drugs to treat serious diseases, like cancer.

Katherine Ferrara Collaborates on New $3.8 Million Mouse Metabolic Phenotyping Center

Via UC Davis Biomedical Engineering | September 26, 2011

The National Institutes of Health today awarded $3.8 million to the University of California, Davis, to fund a new mouse-based research center devoted to studies of the physiology and genetics of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular health. Katherine Ferrara is one of the collaborators in the new Mouse Metabolic Phenotyping Center.

A major focus for the new Mouse Metabolic Phenotyping Center will be cardiovascular disease, which affects more than 82 million Americans, costs an estimated $444 billion annually and is the nation’s leading cause of death. The new center will provide scientists worldwide with complete physiologic characterizations of mice that have been genetically altered for metabolic studies. It will be one of only six such centers in the United States, and the only one that can create the mice for researchers.