Category: cancer

New drug formulation for cancer treatment

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Shanta-Dhar.jpgGreat new research from the department of chemistry:

The drug dichloroacetate, or DCA, was touted as a cure-all, but after years of work, scientists are still searching for ways to make the unique treatment as effective as possible.

Now, researchers at the University of Georgia have discovered a new way to deliver this drug that may one day make it a viable treatment for numerous forms of cancer. They published their findings in the American Chemical Society's journal ACS Chemical Biology.

"DCA shows great promise as a potential cancer treatment, but the drug doesn't find and attack cancer cells very efficiently in the doses researchers are testing," said Shanta Dhar, an assistant professor of chemistry in the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. "We have developed a new compound based on DCA that is three orders of magnitude more potent than standard treatments."

Every cell in the body needs energy to divide and grow, and most of them do this by breaking down sugar. When cells misbehave, they are normally deprived of their food and die in a process called apoptosis.

Dhar is becoming one of the foremost cancer researchers in the country, and this new work (and accompanying technology) only re-emphasize that case. So very much goes into getting to the stage where we can promote published results from our faculty, and having the institutional pieces of the puzzle in place where our researchers can do their best work is where these real benefits to society can be glimpsed. Hard to overstate the implications of this new research, the product of great perserverence and dedication by Dr. Dhar and her team. And it's also occasion to remember how many things have to happen in concert to make it all possible.

Image: Shanta Dhar, with graduate assitant Sean Marrache, in her lab.

Discovery about little-studied protein holds promise for drug treatments

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More evidence that the front lines of research on life-threatening diseases are right here on the UGA campus and in the Franklin College. Insightful new work from a research group lead by faculty member Natarajan Kannan of the Institute for Bioinformatics and the department of biochemistry and molecular biology:

Enter protein kinases. Like specialized traffic signals, this huge class of proteins is critical for many aspects of cell communication, telling them when to begin work and when to stop.

Now, University of Georgia researchers have discovered that a little-studied part of the protein kinases that once appeared non-functional may actually control the most critical functions of the entire molecule. Their research promises to help improve drugs used to fight a variety of life-threatening diseases, from diabetes to cancer.

"The overall goal of this project was to better understand how these proteins function and what mechanisms control their function," said Natarajan Kannan, a Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Scholar and assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. "Our research shows that these little-studied dark regions of the protein are directly affecting the molecule's function."

$4.1 million from NIH to UGA researchers

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More terrific news from Franklin College scientists in the CCRC:

Ovarian and pancreatic cancers are among the most deadly, not because they are impossible to cure, but because they are difficult to find. There are no screening tests that can reliably detect their presence in early stages, and most diagnoses are made after the disease has already spread to lymph nodes and vital organs.

But University of Georgia cancer researchers Karen Abbott and Michael Pierce are exploring new methods of detecting these silent killers using the most advanced technologies available. They recently received two, five-year grants from the National Institutes of Health totaling more than $4.1 million to support their projects. Their work promises to help find the cancers early, when doctors have the best chance to help their patients fight the disease.

"Almost every cancer can be successfully treated if it is diagnosed early enough," said Pierce, Distinguished Research Professor in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and director of the UGA Cancer Center. "If we and others can identify something that helps us find the cancer very early, we will save lives."

New study links hypoxia to cancer growth

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A research team led by Ying Xu, Regents-Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar and professor of bioinformatics and computational biology in the Franklin College, has published some compeeling new findings on the growth of cancer cells:

Low oxygen levels in cells may be a primary cause of uncontrollable tumor growth in some cancers, according to a new University of Georgia study. The authors' findings run counter to widely accepted beliefs that genetic mutations are responsible for cancer growth.

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The research team analyzed samples of messenger RNA data-also called transcriptomic data-from seven different cancer types in a publicly available database. They found that long-term lack of oxygen in cells may be a key driver of cancer growth. The study was published in the early online edition of the Journal of Molecular Cell Biology.

UGA scientists move closer to breast cancer vaccine

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Work by researchers from Franklin College and the Mayo Clinic in Arizona is being widely reported:

Researchers from the University of Georgia and the Mayo Clinic in Arizona have developed a vaccine that dramatically reduces tumors in a mouse model that mimics 90 percent of human breast and pancreatic cancer cases—including those resistant to common treatments.